Simon Rowe - Sleepbus
Although there is a constant visual reminder of the amount of people sleeping on our streets, the average person tends to walk over them. Former rough sleeper turned entrepreneur decided to talk to that struggling somebody, and was so taken aback by his circumstances that Australian registered charity sleepbus was formed. Here at Beauty's Got Soul, we were all personally moved by Simon's story, his humbled- willpower, and how his background in business has gotten buses on the road, and the homeless having safe sleeps. His sheer direct nature to getting things done will inspire all - it does not need to be complicated. Hence, we are using a percentage of our sales, not profits, to directly support the sleepbus community.
The walking billboard filled with Japanese style pods, housing twenty-two rough sleepers per night comes and goes before you get to work, and is prepped, primed and in position well and truly after you’ve left the office. Ultimately it’s the service "they're happy to know its happening but they don’t want to see it". It’s a process and not a destination, nor is it a Band-Aid solution to Australia's serious problem, with "6,314 people that were sleeping rough and now it's 8,500 people so two years on and its increased", yet the government is still supporting the top organisations with huge funds. sleepbus is a one stop shop. A simple bus, gutted and installed with lockable, secure sleeping pods, one care-taker on board and video cameras down the isles for deployment of security if need be, it cannot get more simple and straightforward than this, it addresses the exact problem, getting these vulnerable people a safe sleep.
Fitted with a Digital TV, a DVD is played through a loop of services which they can refer back to throughout the night, it’s a list of services for a pathway out of homelessness within a 2kms of radius where the bus is parked. Maps, distances, icons and accommodation all clearly laid out. If you want the help, it is there, but its their choice. Ultimately, "don’t get comfortable, figure out what your next steps are, get a good sleep in for sure, but figure out how to get out of this place". That being said, these pods are extremely comfortable and more spacious than you may think. With memory foam mattresses and Sheridan sheets, there is no reason not to have some shut eye.
"The sleepbus is mobile, adaptable - it goes to where the people and not where we want them to go" , Says Rowe, its cheap to run, and was built out of his garage, sleepbus is something that has not been done before. They have their personal space through the lockable pods, however, you're in or you're out. The singular requirement of the sleepbus is the quiet enjoyment rule. Once you're in, you are allowed to leave, "its not a prison", however they cannot come back due to security precautions.
Unfortunately, due to the increasing amount of homeless people and not enough recourses people do have to be pushed back which is "the most brutal aspect obviously because we don’t want to turn anyone away". It acts as a first come first serve basis, with priorities given to women, children and teens. Most recently, this has been extended to the elderly with Greek and Italian migrant women being overrepresented within the homeless community.
The cycle of homelessness is often thrown around in debates, and the key is catching it early. By providing safe sleeps, they are providing services. Although Rowe agrees "long-term housing is definitely the way to go […] people that have fallen into that trap early so they don’t get caught up in the wrong crowds or wrong situations. Keep them safe and healthy off the streets and give them a place to sleep, give them information so you know where to go and then work out what your next steps are". Many people are caught up in finding long-term solutions, but meanwhile nothing is happening to those that are sleeping on the street tonight.
"You can't keep everyone off the street. But if I can scale quickly enough, I can. I can help you. Wouldn’t you prefer to deal with someone who's had a good nights sleep that’s healthy, that’s happy as they can be?"
Rowe made it clear, he is in no way an advocate for homelessness, but the advocate for change. His response, enlightening, as "it's one of these things where this charity shouldn't exist, and my happiest day won't be that we've ended people sleeping rough in Australia and we have 300 buses around the country. My happiest day will be when it's not needed and it's closed down. Some charities need to be around all the time, but there's other charities that really should have a shelf life and I hope that sleepbus is one of those".
sleepbus follows the 100% module, which keeps your donation money completely transparent to you, in fact, this year Sleepbus LIVE will be launched, showing where your money is, how many safe sleeps each bus has provided, how many women versus men, age as well as tracking locations. 100% of your donation goes directly to maintaining and providing the sleep bus, and as most people assume, it isn't going to pay for head offices salaries - that is donated privately from corporate sponsors and other individuals. Rowe explains that "there's only so many times you can ask the public to donate to things so if you do a fundraiser to build a bus they jump on board, but in terms of running a bus not so much, that’s when I go to corporate sponsors and that’s why there's the mobile billboard model because they can get a little money and so can we".
What is next, you may ask for sleepbus? A Pink bus dedicated to women and children, with a smaller amount of pods, it is more safe with no climbing, contained, and can rest easy as their family. Currently, there is a GoFundMe page which you can donate to here. By winter, Rowe hopes to have three buses on the road, including the Pink Bus. Additionally, sleepbusLIVE to track your donations.
A large V-Line bus, holding twenty-two peoples belongings, has cages for animals, toilets, caretakers with late nights and overtime and full security footage may sound expensive, and costs $176,000 to run, per year. Want to help out? They need cash donations and corporate sponsorships. If you too are personally moved by the work that Simon and his team have created, please click here to donate.
Mahalia Mingo x
beauty's got soul.
Published on the 01/03/2019 by Leonie Henzell CEO of beauty's got soul