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When we first organised the Lifewise Big Sleepout in 2010, homelessness was “invisible”. Our event was a way to make the wider community and the government face the reality of rough sleepers.

A lot has changed in the last eight years. For one, people experiencing homelessness are less invisible. Furthermore, people who have experienced homelessness are helping create a lasting, purpose-driven solution. This is thanks to our co-design approach to the Housing First model. Kia ora whānau!

Meanwhile, the support we have received from you has been life-changing for our whānau. The wider public, media partners, other social agencies, and also the government, believe in our work. One example is Housing First. Across Auckland, there are now 336 people (184 adults and 152 children) who have a permanent home through Housing First Auckland. This includes over 31 people in the City Centre. These are the people Lifewise works with, the people who have found it most difficult to escape the vicious cycle of homelessness.

But is our work here done? No. Have people stopped becoming homeless? No. Now more than ever we need Housing First to scale up. We are working hard to expand our Housing First programme in the city centre. But there is so much more we can do. We are also turning our thoughts towards social enterprise models. What role might we play in providing points of connection for people who are homeless or recently housed?

Can Lifewise do this alone? Certainly not. To go back to the previous example, a big part of the success of Housing First has been the unprecedented collaboration. Social service agencies and the government must come together this way more often. And we need an event like the Lifewise Big Sleepout to reflect that.

So while we work towards scaling up our efforts to end homelessness, we’re taking a different approach to our annual fundraising event.

This year, 2018, the focus will be to support Lifewise Merge Café, with an exciting fundraising event in mid-winter. Therefore, the Lifewise Big Sleepout will return in 2019; bigger, better and more collaborative. Exciting times ahead!