What I Learned From Living Homeless For 24 Hours

Samantha Gatherum-Goss

Manager of HomeGround Real Estate, Samantha Gatherum-Goss, gives us a look into her efforts taking the Roughin’ It Challenge.

Doing My Bit For The Cause

I had only just started at a new job… 

I joined Launch Housing as the Manager of their social enterprise real estate agency, HomeGround Real Estate, just two weeks prior. In that short time, I had already seen the impact that Launch Housing has and the tireless work put into raising funds for a cause that is often stigmatised and typically swept under the rug. 

I wanted to be part of something that would help change the public perception of homelessness, while doing my part to add crucial funds to the cause. It was also a great way to get to know Launch Housing from both an employee perspective and as a donor. 

My Game Plan For The Challenge

The Roughin’ It Challenge is pretty straight forward. For 24 hours, you have to sleep some place that is not a bed, only spend $10 (on food and all other essential items), and you can only use 1 bag. So, all my belongings, food and sleeping gear had to fit into that one bag. 

I had initially planned to walk down to the supermarket to use my $10 on whatever I could find to eat. I live in the outer suburbs, so I knew that getting public transport anywhere would eat into my budget too much, so staying close by was a must. 

The next thing to consider was how I was going to fill 24 hours of my time. But I also had to consider entertainment for my kids. I decided we would be spending a lot of time at the park, finding activities for both myself and the kids.  

For my sleeping arrangements, I wanted to set up a tent in the backyard with my eldest son. I thought it would be a good opportunity to show him the challenges faced by those sleeping rough and help him learn from it too.  

A photo of a backyard in suburban Melbourne, with a trampoline in the background.

Where I had planned to complete the Roughin’ It Challenge, before illness and bad weather intervened.

A Spanner In The Works

As the day of the challenge approached, I became very ill and could not sleep outside. All of my plans were thrown out of the window. 

I chose to complete the challenge by sleeping on my couch instead because, as I told my son, the Roughin’ It Challenge aims to showcase all types of homelessness – including those caught in the endless cycle of couch-surfing. 

If anything, this further shows the huge privilege I have – that I even had the option to complete the challenge inside. There are thousands of people every day who sleep rough, regardless of the season or their physical or mental health. 

Because of my illness, spending all day at the park was not an option. I was so ill that I spent most of my day indoors and on the couch trying to recuperate. 

I was devastated. I had wanted to do more. I almost felt like I was cheating by staying indoors and having the opportunity to sleep somewhere that was still reasonably comfortable and I had a blanket – one of the ‘luxuries’ I had crammed into my bag for the challenge. 

The Next Day

After a rough night – and not really feeling any better – I saw that the 24-hour time period for the challenge had completed. 

Feeling a bit downtrodden about my attempt, but glad that I still gave it everything I could, I walked to my local café for a pick me up. I ordered a cappuccino for $4… It struck me that, just 24-hours prior, that coffee would have been 40% of my daily budget. For everything… 

Learnings For Next Time 

If I can offer one piece of advice to anyone looking to complete the Roughin’ It Challenge, it would be this – plan ahead! 

But no matter what, your best laid plans will be tested by the Roughin’ It Challenge. My experience showed me the many ways that life can throw curveballs at you, and I was only going to be sleeping rough for 24 hours! I can only imagine how hard it must be to live without a place to call home, day in and day out. 

Completing the Roughin’ It Challenge was a good way of recognising the things I take for granted on a daily basis, such as an overpriced cappuccino or access to a bathroom. It was also such a great educational exercise for my son and sparked some thoughtful conversation at dinner time. 

I would encourage anyone to take part in the Roughin’ It Challenge. It’s an amazing challenge that helps raise awareness and much needed funds for those who have experiencing homelessness, or those at risk of it in the future. 

You can follow Sam’s example and sign up to the Roughin’ It Challenge today.

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