In 2006, Sydney business leader Bernard Fehon conjured up the idea for The CEO Sleepout while working on a fund-raiser for the Australian non-profit organization, St Vincent De Paul Society (Vinnies). Fehon knew that elaborate fund-raising galas were, frankly, tired; not to mention often inappropriate when raising funds for those who could not afford a meal. He soon realised a CEO Sleepout would be easier than a CEO dinner. So, on one night, business and community leaders slept on the streets to reflect on their privilege. That first Vinnies CEO Sleepout raised AU$30 000. The Sydney Sleepout went national in Australia, and is now on its 12th year.
In November 2014, 74 executives and community leaders slept out in Toronto and raised more than $925 000 for homeless youth. The Sleepout was held by Covenant House homeless youth agency in Toronto, and happened simultaneously at 18 other Covenant House sites across North America and Vancouver. Since 2011, over $600,000 has been raised by the private sector.
In New Zealand, more than 100 people “sleep rough” in Auckland’s city centre and thousands of vulnerable people live in unsafe or unsuitable accommodation. The Lifewise Big Sleepout aims to tackle that problem. It sheds light on homelessness by bringing the stories of the homeless to life during the Sleepout. New Zealand had its 7th Sleepout in 2016.
While on a philanthropic fact-finding mission in Australia, Ali Gregg, now Founder and CEO of The CEO SleepOut™, heard about the Vinnies CEO Sleepout. Gregg asked for – and received – Fehon’s “blessing” to bring The Sleepout idea back home. On 18 June 2015, business leaders braced the winter’s cold to spend a night on the streets in South Africa. The first event raised more than R26-million overnight – making it the most successful fund-raising event in the history of the country, and the most successful inaugural CEO Sleepout in the world.
THE UNITED KINGDOM
The UK’s Sleepout was officially formed in 2013. Since then, more than 1,000 executives have raised a staggering £1 Million for Homeless causes. The UK event collects funds by encouraging business leaders to raise sponsorship from their contacts and friends to spend a night sleeping outdoors. They’ve also seen high-profile sponsors become involved. In 2016, events were held across the UK.
THE UNITED STATES
Sleepouts across the US are organised by Covenant House. Since 1972, Covenant House has forged forward with its simple, profound mission to help homeless youths escape the streets. It is the largest, privately funded charity in the Americas, and has grown the Sleepout events to include various editions, including The Executive Edition for business leaders, The Young Professional Edition for future leaders aged 22 to 39, The Mothers Edition, The Corporate and Industry Edition, The Broadway Edition and the Student Edition.