Roughing it to help less fortunate

BRING your blanket, pyjamas, pillow and teddy for a sleepover with a difference this month.

Fusion Western Sydney will hold its Sleep In Your Car event in its St Marys car park next Wednesday night (April 9) for National Youth Homelessness Matters Day.

The aim is to raise awareness about youth homelessness, celebrate the resilience of young people and convey a message that they may be homeless but they aren't helpless.

Fusion centre co-ordinator Judy Tweeddale didn't sleep a wink when the world's inaugural Sleep In Your Car event was held there last year.

"There will be activities to help people understand the reality of being homeless to change their thinking," she said.

According to the 2011 census, 42 per cent of homeless people were under 25 and 17 per cent under 12.

NSW tops the list of youth homelessness with 28,000, a 20 per cent increase since 2006.

"Whether we see it or not, homelessness is a problem," Fusion accommodation support service manager Amanda Wilgress said.

"There are different types: those who live on the streets are a small minority. Other people are living in unsafe or overcrowded housing or are 'couch surfing'.

"It's a community issue. These people are someone's brother, sister, son or daughter.

"There are a lot of reasons a young person is homeless — mostly domestic or family violence — so living at home isn't a choice."

The community must tackle the problem, Mrs Wilgress said.

"It's as simple as passing on a phone number of a support group to someone," she said.

"We need the community to know that there are services and resources."

Fusion will also spread the word about what it's doing to break the cycle of youth homelessness.

"We provide transitional accommodation and can link clients with education centres or will help with living skills," she said.

"Some just need an opportunity to get work or accommodation.

"Young people don't just lose a home when they become homeless — they also lose connections with family and friends."

Twenty people have registered their names so far.

Staff from Professionals Real Estate St Marys, and Classic Conveyancing have registered and are challenging other businesses to do the same.

"We're asking people to come out of their comfort zone for one night," Mrs Wilgress said.

Sleep In Your Car will be held on Wednesday, April 9, from 5pm in the bowlers car park, next to Fusion Western Sydney Youth and Community Centre, 12 Carsons Lane, St Marys.

The Fusion Cafe will be open and there will be a free barbecue. It is an alcohol-free event.

Registration essential: findyourplace.org.au or 8805 5900.

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