Spending tonight in the Octagon will be a bitterly cold experience for those taking part in Dunedin Sleepout 2017, but organisers are not deterred.
The third annual running of the event, which is aimed at raising awareness and funds for the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust, will coincide with a forecast low of just 1degC on Friday night.
University of Otago Volunteer Centre co-ordinator Sze-en Watts and her Unicrew Volunteer team are preparing to add another layer of clothing and soldier on.
“The annual Dunedin Sleepout events are a great way to bring everyone together and to keep the conversation going about homelessness in Dunedin,” Mrs Watts said.
The inaugural Dunedin Sleepout in 2015 was part of a major fundraising and awareness push to allow the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust to buy the night shelter buildings at 18 Lees St.
About 200 people took part in the 2015 sleepout, and the popularity of the event continued last year, when 150 people braved the elements.
The two events raised about $18,000 for the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust.
“We are hopefully looking at a similar number of people this year, although the weather forecast means only the hardiest will be out there,” she said.
The Unicrew volunteer team understands that the Night Shelter needs ongoing operating funds, so the sleepout event also includes fundraising.
Three student artists, Bella Anyamele, Emma Withers, and Haowei Yu, have created designs for pillowcases and tote bags, and these are being sold to raise funds.
Dunedin Night Shelter Trust chairman Dave Brown, who will be joining the sleepout, said the event was a great way to raise awareness at a time when the shelter was busier than ever.
In the first four months of 2017, the shelter had provided accommodation for 107 people – 91 men and 16 women – making a total of 325 bed nights.
“If this keeps up, we will be up over the 1000 bed nights mark this year,” Mr Brown said.
This was a marked increase on last year’s total of about 720 bed nights.
“There are all sorts of reasons for homelessness, but we are noticing that finding affordable accommodation is becoming more and more difficult.”
Dunedin Sleepout 2017 will be held from 7pm tomorrow to 7am on Saturday in the Octagon.