Last night I slept outside as part of the Vinnies CEO Sleepout to raise money for -- and try to better understand -- the marginalised community of homeless people in Australia.
Let's start by acknowledging that I didn't really sleep rough. Sleeping under the stars in the security of the SCG in a $200 sleeping bag was actually quite embarrassing when compared to that of what most homeless people face every day.
There was no despair, violence or isolation, but the experience was very confronting. I felt ashamed to face the reality that most of society has dehumanised homeless people, simply labelling them drug addicts, alcoholics or mentally ill.
As Vinnies CEO Jack de Groot pointed out, it doesn't take much to lose the roof over your head. A chronic illness, coupled with the loss of a job, family breakdown, violence or simple bad luck.
To illustrate this, Vinnies organised three amazing speakers who had the lion-hearted courage to stand up in front of 357 CEOs and share their experiences of homelessness.
It was their stories that kept me awake last night, not the cold or discomfort. The realisation that domestic violence is one of the leading cause of homelessness. The realisation that that women represent the fastest growing group facing homelessness as a result of earning less than men, taking career breaks to have kids and accumulating less in superannuation.
The most heart-breaking statistic is that 17,000 children 12 and under are homeless in Australia. The main problem with this statistic is the fact it is just that: a statistic. One of the problems homeless people face is feeling invisible.
Everyone wants to be loved, acknowledged and respected.
The encouraging thing is that there is a lot we can do; from being an advocate for homeless people, volunteering for homelessness organisations or donating to homelessness organisations.
But let's start with a smile, a nod, a hello. Let's start recognising those most vulnerable in our society and protect them from becoming another statistic.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST AUSTRALIA