EXECUTIVES around the country will be sleeping on the street next Thursday night to raise money for homeless services.

The Vinnies CEO Sleepout is raising awareness and funds to support the over 100,000 people in Australia experiencing homelessness.

Ben Burge, Telstra Energy Executive, will be joining them in Melbourne, for his sixth year supporting the cause as an ambassador.

“It’s great,” Burge said. “That’s why I keep going back for more.”

With Melbourne temperatures set to be in single digits on the night of the sleepout, Burge said he knows what he’s in for.

“Look, you do get cold,” he said. “But the reality is, at the end I get to go home and have a hot shower. It’s really only a glimpse of the reality that a lot of Australians face.”

Burge said that while the fundraising event is annual, the work St Vincent de Paul does to support people experiencing homelessness is far from a one-off annual event.

“You meet people and hear stories that spur you on to do more during the year,” he said.

Vinnies’ homeless services include a soup van that delivers a free hot meal to people in need on the streets. Burge has also volunteered with the soup van.

“You meet these really engaging, intelligent, funny people who just happen to be homeless,” Burge said.

“They are people like us who happen to be homeless. Often the root cause of people becoming homeless is a loss of human connection, in the workplace or at home.

“That relates to the LGBTI community, particularly LGBTI youth, because during that time when someone is discovering their gender or sexuality that’s often when they’re most at risk of losing the support of their family.”

Burge said statistics clearly show that LGBTI people are overrepresented among people experiencing homelessness.

“They’re overrepresented in some of the key risk factors, like depression,” he said.

“And once becoming homeless LGBTI people are less likely to reach out for support. It seems like there’s a fear of further victimisation.

“The human connection is the one thing we know that’s effective, and it costs us nothing to provide.”

Burge said LGBTI people who are homeless or at risk need to be supported.

“Particularly during that time when they might become more vulnerable to risks like depression and isolation,” he said.

Burge has almost reached his goal of raising $7,000 for the sleepout. You can donate online to help.

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