Homeless Hilton

The BOQ Gympie crew.
Bottom left – they slept on boxes on concrete.
Bottom right – The Homeless Hilton – even had a bedhead.

I had a plan.

Sleeping on concrete in the middle of town in middle of winter with nothing in my middle is not my idea of a great start to the weekend. But, to raise money to help the homeless, I’d agreed to do it. In a onesie. Furthermore, my 8 year old son would be joining me. Planning was the key to making this work and I’d spent the last couple of weeks lining up my ducks.

“Hi, this is Bruce from the Bank of Queensland,” I said to the nice lady who answered the phone at Community Action Inc in Gympie. “I have a bad back. I’ll need to bring a mattress.”

“That won’t be a problem,” she said. “After all, you have a medical reason.”

Or, as the girls from work put it, I’m a big girl’s blouse. A title I was happy to be labeled with, so long as I could walk away from the evening without the assistance of a walking frame.

Add enough blankets and pillows to fill the back seat of the Pajero and bedding was sorted.

That same phone call I learned there were around 70 people coming to share the pavement with me. Next, as we’re told with any real estate venture, was location, location, location. Cold was one thing, but the morning dew was my main concern. I ran a few sorties mid-week to scope out potential spots. They were slim pickings.

There was no way to rope off an area prior to the event, so I did the only thing I could: an hour before the event was scheduled to start, Master8 and I showed up and secured our spot – effectively up in the rafters and under cover, directly over the loo. I can honestly say I have never before attempted to nab a camping spot near the toilets. Also, as I was the only person there with a mattress, I was pleased not to be in the middle of everyone making a spectacle of myself.

Next, entertainment. I’m used to spending a night happily distracted at my laptop. I can write, read, surf or watch movies. Without it, rather sadly I acknowledge, I’m a bit lost. To fill the void I took every card game in the house and a few others to boot.

But the organizers had that covered too – with speakers and musicians and even a fun game which got everyone involved.

Master8 and I teamed up in the game to build a homeless shelter out of flat sheets of cardboard. We tore slots halfway down the side of each sheet and slotted them together for strength, cutting in a door at one end. It was sturdy, if a little mangled looking.

“A feat of engineering,” someone said. Yes, but I had to concede, with its torn cardboard (I didn’t have scissors or a knife) it was a failure in architecture. Still, we could have hunkered down in it all night and been quite protected from the elements. Well, it would have fought off a gentle frost anyway.

“I may not know much about building homeless shelters,” I told them, “but I am the king of throwing together crappy cubby houses.” Raising seven kids has its advantages.

So this left just one last, minor problem to sort out.

“I ordered us a box of oranges for the sleepout,” I told Tracey earlier in the week.

“You can’t take food or drink,” she reminded me.

“I don’t want the oranges,” I told her. “I want the boxes.”

For storage. The fruit boxes worked beautifully as a bedhead and we put our games, torches and odds and ends in it.

A friend, on seeing our set up, said, “You’re pretty good at this homeless stuff. You know, if Tracey ever kicks you out, you’ll do okay.”

He’s wrong. I don’t know how everyone else managed to function today, but I had ten inches of springs, foam and cushion between me and the concrete, and was saved from the worst of the morning dew by the only useful bit of roof in the place, and I feel like crap.

Which reminds me of something said by a person who goes out and helps the homeless – they’ve been helping homeless people for years and have yet to meet someone who’s homeless because they want to be.

While Master8 had no intention of sleeping at all last night, I eventually managed to pin him down and we retired to the penthouse of the Hotel Hilton, as we dubbed it, at 12.30am.

Which was when some guy with bongos decided to start up, not that we minded. I figured it would drown out my snoring for the other campers.

We must have managed some sleep because before we knew it the birds were screaming (I’m guessing they only chirp in captivity) and people were packing up and going home.

The big surprise was arriving home around 7am to find Tracey with her eyes hanging out of her head.

“You weren’t in bed, so I had two girls in with me,” she said – Miss6 and Miss3. “I feel like I’ve been beaten up.” Apparently Miss6 has taken to sleep slapping now.

Yep, it seems despite sleeping on the street, Tracey managed to have a worse night than us.

It’s all in the planning, of course.

Oh, and it also doesn’t hurt to have twenty or so dedicated helpers to feed us and watch over us and make us feel we’re not along and forgotten: handing out an occasional cup of tea and having a chat. But then that’s what these people do day in day out for the homeless who happen through this community, while the rest of us watch Big Brother and snack on Tim Tams, so I guess we could expect them to be good at it.  Bless them.

Pleasingly, thanks to the donations from staff, family, friends and customers, the Gympie branch of the Bank Of Queensland managed to contribute a wee bit over $1000 to the night’s fundraising efforts, which will go a ways towards helping these good people help others who find themselves, for whatever reason, without a place to sleep.

If anyone would like to help Community Action Inc Gympie, or to make a small donation to help them do their fine work, here’s a LINK. I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.

My sign – 2 UGLY 2 B A HOOKER – GIVE $$$
Master8’s sign – I’M WITH UGLY – GIVE MONEY
Bottom middle pic – Tracey’s little joke. Microwave popcorn.

Again, the  Community Action Gympie  LINK 🙂 Great work guys! I hope you raised heaps.

When not typing away over here and checking his stats every two minutes Bruce Devereaux hangs out at his ‘BIG FAMILY little income’  Facebook Page.

 ’raising a family on little more than laughs’

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