YOUTH homelessness is an often invisible problem - but on Friday night 86 TAS students gained an insight into the plight, swapping their warm beds for a sheet of cardboard and a blanket and raising funds for the cause in the process.
Spending the night outside in supervised areas of the school, without personal luxuries including mobile phones, the students were also 'moved on' twice, replicating to a degree the fact that a homeless person walks on average 28km per week in order to seek shelter and safety.
"More than 17,000 Australian children under the age of 12 have no permanent home and 47,000 under 25 are homeless every night, facing the added challenge of neglect, abuse, drug and alcohol dependency and exclusion from school," said TAS coordinator of Challenge & Service Jim Pennington.
"At the start it was a bit of a novelty and there were plenty of smiles, but after being moved on twice through the night most had clearly experienced tiredness and discomfort and appreciated getting just a glimpse into what that can be like for so many, every night," he said.
It wasn't just about the experience though; for their efforts the students raised $2100 for St Vincent de Paul Armidale and $1000 for the Wayside Chapel at Kings Cross.
"It was pretty tough and uncomfortable, not being used to noise and bright lights outside and then having a broken sleep as well. It was quite a reality check; you hear about it but don't realise how normal this is for so many people our age," Keeley O'Connor said.
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Joshua Miron agreed. "The sleepout wasn't easy and helped give us some understanding of the every day struggles and conditions they experience. I learnt how youth homelessness is bigger than I realised, and we should do more about it."