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Dunedin Sleep-Out battles the cold for a good cause

Friday, 4 August 2017 9:31am

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Otago University Unicrew volunteers Abigail Clark and Hannah Ballantyne at the fundraising stall featuring student-designed merch.

University of Otago students spent a cold winter’s night in the Octagon on Friday, raising awareness and money for the Dunedin Night Shelter.

University of Otago Volunteer Centre co-ordinator Sze-En Watts joked that while students were focussed on “making it through the night”, the bigger goal was to promote awareness of homelessness to ensure discussion on the issue continued.

“Homelessness isn’t as visible in Dunedin [as it is in other parts of the country] but it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Our event engages students in the cause and doing the Sleep-Out in a place like the Octagon invites the public to take part in the conversation," she says.

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A student attracts public attention to the Sleep-Out's cause near the St David lecture theatre on Otago's Dunedin campus.

About 120 students participated on one of the coldest nights of the year, with temperature hovering between zero and one degree Celsius. Despite near-freezing temperatures, students kept warm by building cardboard shelters, having dance parties and learning fire spinning.

In the days leading up to the event Unicrew Volunteers held fundraising stalls around the university to sell Dunedin Sleep-Out merchandise designed by students.

Sze-En said the Dunedin Sleep-Out creates an opportunity for students to demonstrate their commitment to the fight against poverty and homelessness, and raise funds for the Dunedin Night Shelter.

Since its establishment as a trust in 2007, the Shelter has provided more than 1400 bed-nights of emergency accommodation.

The Dunedin Night Shelter relies heavily on the generosity of their trained volunteers and community groups. Including this year’s efforts, the Dunedin Sleep-Out has raised over $20,000, which as contributed to buying buildings for the Shelter, and helping individuals make progress in their lives.