A Night at the Cathedral: Learning about Homelessness

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A night in the Cathedral provided a perfect opportunity to help young people experience something of youth homelessness, raise needed funds and have some fun all at the same time. This innovation profile was contributed by Heidi Monsour of Anglicare Southern Queensland.

What was the need or challenge being addressed?

Anglicare Southern Queensland has been working hard over the last few years to increase our level of engagement with Anglican Schools in the region. This engagement is not just about fund raising but also about education and community building. Our Fundraising team has put a lot of thought into developing events and activities that are innovative, educative and will capture the attention of students. In the hope of raising student awareness of youth homelessness and raising some funds to address this problem we came up with “A Night at the Cathedral”.

What was the response to the need? 

The old saying ‘you don’t know anything until you’ve walked in someone else’s shoes’, is the idea behind this campaign. ‘A Night at the Cathedral’ involves school students and teachers sleeping on the floor of St John’s Cathedral in Brisbane on a designated night so they can experience what it is like to sleep rough. It helps them understand the difficulty of sleeping without a comfortable bed and without their favourite pillow. The hope is that in providing the experience we might build empathy leading to action.

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What was impact? 

Fifty students from three schools formed teams of 3-5 and raised a minimum of $300 for youth homelessness to participate. Over $6000 dollars was raised. The activity increased Anglicare’s engagement with schools while educating students about both homelessness and the Cathedral. It also increased students’ awareness of the services Anglicare Southern Queensland offers to support homeless young people, as well as our other services.

What were the greatest challenges or issues faced?

A number of schools were contacted for expressions of interest but this time not all had enough notice to commit. Despite not quite meeting our anticipated targets for students and schools, the event was a huge success. Having a small group made it easier to gauge the effectiveness of the event and fine-tune the program for the next one. Another night is now booked for June next year with the expectation that a few hundred students will sign up through their schools.

Because it was the first event of this type, much preparation work was required to setup the event. This included risk assessments, Cathedral and school liaison as well as creating an engaging evening for the students.

Experiri presents stories of innovation in school ministry from Australia and beyond. Each profiles highlights  innovative strategies that have been developed in response to challenges or emerging issues for chaplains or others in Anglican Schools, including Heads and Religious Educators. 

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