by Melanie Keyte
ANNELISE Kemp didn't sleep a wink last Wednesday night.
She had joined a team of 11 community members, councillors and kind-hearted strangers in camping out at the Laidley Crisis Care centre to raise funds and awareness for the Lockyer Valley's homeless.
"It was so good for me to have a sleepless cold night, making me realise how much we take for granted," Ms Kemp said.
"I found the whole experience very humbling and (camping out) reminded me of how privileged and spoiling my life has been."
The event saw a small but dedicated turnout, including Mayor Tanya Milligan and Councillor Chris Wilson.
"It's about empathy," Ms Milligan said.
"The reality is, there will be families sleeping in their cars or on the streets tonight.
"For us, it'll be a little bit cold but for those people, they'll be thinking 'Where is my next meal coming from?' and 'will I be safe sleeping here?'.
"Events like this make us stop and reflect, which is important because (homelessness) doesn't discriminate."
Member of the organising committee Karen Bachmann said it was a "heartwarming" occasion which she hoped would encourage more community support for the region's most vulnerable.
"People don't realise how easy it is to become homeless," she said.
"It can happen to any of us through just a twist of fate, and once you do realise this, it makes you more willing to reach out and help."
Adelaide woman Julie Brownell, who had come to Laidley specifically for the sleep-out, said she had already begun to understand the hidden difficulties of being homeless.
"I noticed when I was getting ready that it was quite an organisational project to think about what you need, what you can realistically carry (and) what will be safe," she said.
"Some people enjoy camping, but it's not fun when you don't have a say."
Campers and those in need were offered a soup dinner, warm blankets donated by the community and specially designed jackets donated by the Order of Malta.
Fellow organiser Margaret Fisher said they were "thrilled to bits" with the outpouring of support.
"I'm really touched at the spontaneous generosity we've seen," she said.
"One lady was just walking her dog past (the church) and said to us 'I've got a bunch of patchwork quilts at home, I'll bring them for you'.
"It brings tears to your eyes."
Emergency support and accommodation can be sought from the Laidley Crisis Care via phone 54653302 or in person at 45 Patrick Street, Laidley.