In the Bible, the Good Samaritan saw a stranger in great need and helped him. Having experienced homelessness himself, Simon Rowe was disturbed by the numbers of people sleeping rough. So he came up with his own dream of helping strangers, and the idea of the sleepbus was born.
What is the sleepbus?
Sleepbus is an affordable, adaptable and innovative solution to help end the need for people to sleep rough, until they get back on their feet.
Is the idea still in the planning phase or are there sleepbuses up and running?
The first bus is complete and will begin operations in St Kilda later this month for the first phase of our pilot program and testing.
What is the process for getting the buses and converting them?
Each sleepbus has 22 individual, lockable sleep pods, two toilets, up to eight pet kennels and an overnight caretaker on board. Each sleep pod has climate control, lights, USB charging for phones, intercom and free-to-air digital TV and an auxiliary channel which shows a series of ads of all the services available in the area to assist with pathways out of homelessness.
How do you finance it?
Currently sleepbus is part self-funded, and has some assistance from public and corporate support.
What were the circumstances that led you to start sleepbus?
Back in May 2015 I saw a man trying to sleep on a footpath in St Kilda East, in the middle of the day on a busy Saturday. I stopped to see what I could do for him, and remember as we chatted that he was the most tired man I had ever seen.
He told me that it wasn’t safe to sleep at night; you had to stay awake and keep an eye out, so it was much safer to sleep during the day and let people walk past and over him. This gutted me, I went home and told my family, and my teenage kids, seeing I was upset by the encounter, told me I should do something about it...so I decided I would. After 12 months of research, planning and strategy the sleepbus was born.
Are you getting support for the idea or has there been resistance?
There’s been no resistance to date and the support has been amazing. The sleepbus idea is simple and has clearly resonated with people, which has helped a great deal. Our target is to have 319 buses nationally within six years.
How do rough sleepers feel about the idea?
In theory, the idea has been well received, but it all comes down to the pilot program and testing. This is where we work with those sleeping rough to determine if any changes are required prior to a national launch.
That said, where I believe sleepbus will come to the fore is as early intervention, catching people experiencing homelessness early on and providing a safe place for them to get a good night’s sleep, and a clear head, plus some information on the next steps to take. And then I really hope that the pathway out of homelessness will be a little easier to see.
Where will the sleepbuses be located?
I have a launch strategy to get sleepbuses where they need to be, and because they are mobile, we can put them exactly where they are needed. If or when the bus is not required in that location, we can drive it somewhere else where it is needed. The first step is to test it and ensure it works in the best possible way.
Once we have all the data over the next few months, a national launch will take place and expand from there. I already have requests for buses from around the country, from other organisations, councils and I even have had requests globally, US, UK, France, Germany and NZ— but first steps first.
What do you need most at the moment to make this idea work?
The only way sleepbuses work is if we come together and decide as a community to end the need for people to sleep rough. Imagine the ripple effect of people not having to sleep rough in our country, not just the physical and mental benefits, but the financial benefits.
I also believe that the sleepbus intervention will greatly assist the amazing organisations, like the Salvos, who are working on long-term solutions—that’s the hope and dream I have.
For more information visit www.sleepbus.org.