SLEEPOUT SUPPORT: Gregory Smith, who lived in the forest outside of Mullumbimby for 10 years, is the ambassador for this year's St Vinnie's sleepout at Seagulls club.
SLEEPOUT SUPPORT: Gregory Smith, who lived in the forest outside of Mullumbimby for 10 years, is the ambassador for this year's St Vinnie's sleepout at Seagulls club. Nikki Todd

Gregory Smith's bus stop insight

ONE of the most pivotal moments in the life of Gregory Smith, the subject of ABC's next Australian Story, was an epiphany he had at a bus stop in Tweed Heads.

Down, out and with a future bleak and uncertain, Smith's road to Damascus moment in the Tweed, which is detailed in his new book Out of the Forest, changed the course of his life - and now he is helping others.

Gregory P. Smith, homeless and educated in the park.1 August  2016.
Gregory P. Smith, homeless and educated in the park.1 August 2016. Leigh Jensen

A long-time homeless man, Gregory Smith - now Dr Greogry Smith after gaining his PhD and becoming a lecturer at Southern Cross University - will later this month be lending his support to the Tweed community sleepout, which raises funds for Fred's Place, St Vincent de Paul Society's drop-in support centre for homeless people in the Tweed.

Dr Smith, who knows all too well the struggle of the homeless, will spearhead the fundraising effort that has found strong support in the local community.

The money raised at the sleepout will be directed towards the very essentials homeless people need to get through the day,

"Fred's Place provides local homeless people with light meals, bathroom and laundry facilities, rostered medical care, telephone and internet, the opportunity to watch TV or socialise in the backyard,” said St Vincent de Paul Society's North Coast Executive Officer Michael Timbrell.

"The staff help up to 80 people a day to access services such as Centrelink, legal aid and drug and alcohol counselling.”

As Fred's Place receives no government funding, the dollars raised at the sleepout are vital so the initiative can continue on its good work.

"The most important event is the annual sleepout, which gives just a taste of what it's like to be homeless on a winter's night,” he said.

”By providing basic personal support, Fred's Place gives people some control over their lives, and a degree of dignity.”

The sleepout will be held at Seagulls Club from 5.30pm on August 30 to 8am on August 31.

To donate or register for the sleepout go tofredsplace community sleepout.org.au



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