Jon Stretch wants everyone to take the time to understand homelessness and then get involved in ending it, the Catholic Leader reports.
Mr Stretch runs ERM Power, a $3 billion revenue listed energy company in Brisbane’s CBD, and each year he joins the Vinnies CEO Sleepout to have his perceptions of homelessness challenged.
Mr Stretch was Queensland’s top fundraiser this year with $106,297, contributing to $1.26 million across Queensland and $7.1 million nationally – surpassing last year’s total of $6.3 million.
But it was more than just a fundraiser and a rough night of sleep; each year experiential activities were offered as a chance to learn about the homeless experience.
This year was a supermarket experience.
Mr Stretch explained that each of the participants were told they were homeless and given $100 of fake money and were asked to go through a series of makeshift supermarket aisles formed of eight-metre-long tables filled with products and their prices.
There was crockery, cutlery, pots and pans as well as long-life food, fruit, vegetables, pillows, blankets and all sorts of things on offer.
The aim of the exercise was to see how best the participants could spend the money they were given.
“You have to sit there and think about nutrition, you think about warmth, you think about, ‘Well, if I’m going to buy food I’ll need something to cook it in, and I’m going to need something to drink out of’,” Mr Stretch said.
“And once you’ve made all your choices, you go to the checkout and a couple of people from Vinnies just sit there and point out how stupid you are,” he said with a laugh.
“And they say ‘Why did you buy a towel and a washer, you only need one of those, and, yeah, by the way, how are you expecting to carry all this stuff’,” Mr Stretch said. “(They were) just really challenging questions that just make you sit there and go, ‘Oh, my God, I’m so naïve’.
“Can you imagine if that’s the choices you’re faced with?”
Vinnies Queensland chief executive officer Kevin Mercer said funds raised by the Vinnies CEO Sleepout events, run for the past 10 years in Queensland, made a tangible difference by providing direct support to those struggling with homelessness in Queensland with vital resources, facilities and programs.