Tim’s out of the box

Tim Heenan has received an award for his support for Swags for Homeless. 95453 Picture: EMMA SUN

MOUNT Evelyn resident and former Yarra Ranges councillor Tim Heenan has been recognised for his support to the homeless after his month-long sleep-out last year.
He was presented with an Advocate of the Year award by Swags for Homeless for his dedication to raising awareness for the organisation, which provides backpack beds for people in need.
Mr Heenan generated widespread publicity and awareness when he slept in a cardboard box for 30 nights last September in Melba Park, Lilydale.
The sleep-out was well documented on social media, with regular updates on people Mr Heenan spoke to and the problems he faced.
While he was proud to receive the award, Mr Heenan said the focus needed to be on the people who were sleeping rough and needed the assistance of those who could afford to help.
“Receiving the award was just a catalyst for the long association I want to have with Swags for Homeless,” he said.
“With my involvement with local government for the last seven years, I see there is clearly a void, a void of money that goes from state and federal government to have a decent roof over the head of every homeless person, be it a single person or a family.
“What Swags for Homeless is doing is it’s putting in a temporary situation that provides dignity for a homeless person, and that is a backpack bed
“It’s not a roof over their head, it’s not meant to be, but it gives a little bit of confidence in inclement weather and in situations where they’re going to need some sort of safety with their belongings on them.”
Swags for Homeless CEO Tony Clark said Mr Heenan’s efforts were inspirational and praised him for his commitment.
“We’re very proud of Mr Heenan – he’s an incredible individual,” he said.
“You don’t know how a man’s travelled unless you’ve been in his shoes and sleeping out in the park for a month like he did in cardboard and tarp – that’s the reality behind most (homeless) Australians.
“I hope it inspires other councillors and leaders of this country because as leaders, they’re responsible for their constituents.”
Mr Heenan said he intended to sleep out again this year in August, which will coincide with homeless week, to raise even more awareness.
“There’s a lot of positive offshoots in what Swags for Homeless are doing and I intend to help them as much as I can and to raise a lot of money to buy more swags,” he said.
“I hope all of the Yarra Ranges will get on board when the time comes and I’m going to do my best to raise money.
“It’s $68 for one backpack bed, which is a small amount to pay to give a little bit of dignity to a person that is homeless.”