Thoughts On The CEO SleepOut

I watched the insert on TV, dressed for the winter storms; expensive winter jackets, beautiful scarves and branded beanies! Snug as CEO bugs, the social scene that played out on a street, safe and secure, where they all came to meet!

In excess of R23 million was raised for Boys and Girls Town, one of the largest NPO’s focussing on childcare in South Africa. A worthy cause indeed.

I, however, had a chill running down my spine, watching the CEO SleepOut insert, the media report! CEO’s sleeping on the streets for one night, not even a glimpse of what it is truly like for a homeless person on the street . . . Will some of these funds be used to build shelters for the homeless, the people rejected by society? How many homeless people will reap the benefits of this social occasion that “mirrors” a night in a life of  a homeless person?

This event, in no way highlighted the very REAL plight of the countless homeless people on our streets. The people we turn a blind eye to every day! A night on the streets offer NO safety, NO food, NO jovial chats with mates, NO warmth. I know this, I see it every day! The harsh realities of street life, being caught between the rights of all citizens and the social divide and lack of resources, funds and “suitable” land to address the need for shelters in ALL communities!

Can the CEO now “relate” to what it is like to live on the streets? NO! Can the CEO “relate” to the fears and human degradation of sleeping in the wet dark night? NO! Can they relate to needing to defecate at 3am, identifying the side of the road/the nearest bush as the only accessible toilet facilities? NO! Have they raised a significant amount of money? YES!

Will some of the funds raised go towards addressing the needs of the homeless persons on the streets? I DON’T KNOW! From what I’ve read, the SleepOut’s objective was not to create awareness of the homeless people on our street, but rather to create awareness of vulnerable children, some of whom may also be homeless, living on the streets.

The SleepOut marketing, however, creates the perception that the CEO’s are sleeping on the street to better understand the needs of people living on the streets. The need for Shelters in South Africa.

Did any of those CEO’s have to personally, find  their own cardboard box, their bed for the night. No. Everything was branded and provided; safety, food and a dry place to sleep!

The REAL and GROWING challenge of homelessness was used as a CSI marketing exercised from which the corporate brands will continue to benefit for years to come, while many more people continue to die on our streets! Homeless people who are turned away from shelters – space, the demand far exceed the bed space available; some shelters only take males or females, some don’t take children, etc.

I don’t have a solution. I don’t want to take away from this fundraising initiative, it is a brilliant way to generate donations for a worthy cause! However, no matter how media and PR professionals spins it, it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

The clips of jovial CEOs; lights, camera, action, smile! A stark contrast of the realities of street life, let’s “sleep under the stars”.

I don’t even know how to articulate my feelings about this SleepOut. I honestly don’t like the way this event was branded!  WHY SHOULD IT EVEN BE AN EVENT! Sleeping on the streets is NOT an event, it is a SOCIAL TRAGEDY!

This morning I spoke to my dad about this, and he’s response “the bottom line is at least the CEOs tried to do something” So what have I done? Nothing, but blog, so who the hell am I to question the integrity of this CEO SleepOut?

More than R23 000 000 was raised for children, and that should count for something, right?

Will I regret publishing my thoughts on this? No. Will I get flack from you for voicing my thoughts? Maybe. Did this post provoke further thought on the CEO SleepOut and the plight of the homeless? I hope so.