Public shows of pretend philanthropy

I really hope that a homeless person gets to ask this year’s CEOs taking part in the Vinnies CEO Sleepout when they last purchased a copy of The Big Issue, and that someone is there to record the moment. Because it won’t be pretty.

What started off as a clever and cutesy media-friendly fundraising idea designed to educate the public along the way, has turned into a condescending cliché. This annual camp out for the great and the good has become little more than a PR virtue-signalling exercise, unrelated to the plight of the homeless.

Homeless people do not get comfy sleeping bags and a safe place to lay their head. They do not get a marquee to keep them dry. And I’ve yet to see one enjoying the luxury of a nice (sometimes fenced-off) hassle-free space to protect them from anyone who may wish them harm.

I do not expect CEOs, or anyone who has a home to go to, to sleep rough. I just don’t. In the same way, when I’ve chatted to people who are recovering addicts, I won’t stick a needle in my arm or get wasted with them – even if it’s just for one night and I have the chance to get my mush on the 6pm news.

To be honest, I’d prefer the CEOs set up food trucks and sit for, let’s say 12 hours, just chewing the fat with homeless people. Now, that would be a premium networking opportunity, although probably not the one most would have in mind.

At the very least, they owe the people from the street a bit of their time – perhaps a cuppa and a chance to hear about their experiences.

I guarantee, this will be like taking The Matrix red pill.

Showing up to a camp with your rich mates is a strictly blue pill experience.

If someone is ready and willing to put their hand in their pocket for the benefit of others, chances are I’ll like them. But, if they’re only prepared to do it in pursuit of their own profile, that’s another thing entirely.

I’d be much more in awe of this public show of pretend philanthropy if I didn’t suspect many of the participants were returning to waterfront mansions, or shiny apartments in Brisbane’s more salubrious suburbs, and were prepared to commit to helping the homeless the other 364 days of the year.

Participants – why not sit down and write out a damn big cheque to Vinnies? Make it just a little bit bigger than is sensible, so you feel those endorphins flow.

If you’d like to see who’s taking part this year at (wait for it) that well-known hang-out of the homeless, the Brisbane Powerhouse in New Farm Park – and find out how much they each intend to raise, this leaderboard makes for an interesting read.

And before anyone asks, would I rather no money was raised?

I would just prefer that no one was homeless.

I hope that clears things up.