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Adelaide social enterprise on a mission to help the homeless

Posted on October 22 2018

In Conversation with change makers - Australia Day Council of SA - Adelaide Sarah Gun GOGO events

Photo: Captured by Catherine Leo Photography

By Sarah Gun, GOGO events

On any given night 116,000 Australians are homeless[1] and in South Australia the number of people sleeping rough doubled between 2011 and 2016.[2]  

Stigma makes it harder for people experiencing homelessness to find employment leading to a cycle that can feel futile.  The cumulative spiral of unemployment, mental ill-health and homelessness touched my family unexpectedly when my mother died and my brother suffered mental ill-health and experimented with drugs.  We needed support and I saw firsthand what a difference both community and opportunity can make in people’s lives. 

Years later, our family’s experience inspired me to transform my event management company GOGO Events to create paid work for people experiencing homelessness. Since changing our focus, we have created over seven hundred work outcomes for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness in the past six years.  Our teams work together to deliver stunning and memorable events and festivals that consistently deliver above and beyond our clients’ expectations.

Creating job opportunities for people experiencing homelessness is not just about putting a roof over their heads.  It is about helping them build the self-confidence and skills to turn their lives around for the long term.  Working helps our staff improve their mental health, their wellbeing and their financial circumstances and provides the opportunity to start imagining new possibilities.  We have the most capable, versatile adaptable and enthusiastic staff in the event-management business.  Our employees are referred from frontline homelessness services like Hutt Street Centre We also work with the Zahra Foundation and The Big Issue, and in the past, Catherine House and Common Ground. We are one link in a chain of services that help support people experiencing homelessness to get back on their feet.

Women and older people are increasingly at risk of experiencing homelessness - and women make up 85 percent of our work force. Family and domestic violence is a significant predicator of homelessness with many women and families forced into homelessness when they experience family violence. This creates financial hardship that often means women have no other option than returning to an unsafe environment. Paid employment can save women’s lives and protect children from harm.

Tackling homelessness requires governments, community organisations and businesses to work together.  I have recently established the GOGO Foundation to provide supported care and workplace mentoring services and encourage other businesses to realise the opportunity they have to make a long-term difference in the lives of people experiencing homelessness.

No Australian should be without a home. My experience shows there are immediate and tangible things every one of us can do right now to make that happen. It is time to end homelessness in Australia. 

In Conversation with change makers with Sarah Gun, Taryn Brumfitt, Corey White and Arman Abrahimzadeh OAM was held on Tuesday 16 October 2018,  Find out more

[1] ABS (2018) Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016. Cat. No. 2049.0. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.




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