Sports Stars To Shiver At SCG For Youth Homelessness

"In a society like ours, it's unacceptable so many don't have a home"

Some of Australia's most storied sports heroes will take to the hallowed turf of the Sydney Cricket Ground for an entirely new reason next month, as they look to raise funds for youth homelessness.

Former Australian cricket captain Greg Chappell has enlisted football stars and Olympic gold medalists for his Sports Star Sleepout event, under the banner of his Chappell Foundation. The likes of rugby's Nick Farr-Jones, Phil Waugh and David Campese, NRL legend Steve Mortimer, beach volleyball champion Kerri Pottharst and Matildas soccer star Michelle Heyman will spend a freezing August night out under the stars, in aid of young people sleeping rough.

The event, set for August 5, will coincide with the start of Homeless Week.

Fittingly for the SCG venue, Australia's cricketers will form a healthy contingent of participants, including Chappell's brother Trevor, former women's captain Lisa Sthalekar, and current stars including Mitchell Starc, Alyssa Healy and Moises Henriques.

"I first became interested in youth homelessness with I was working and living in east Melbourne. I used to walk through the Fitzroy gardens and noticed people sleeping rough every night, and most of them seemed fairly young," Chappell told ten daily.

The 2011 census found around 44,000 young people were homeless every night in Australia, a combination of those sleeping rough, couch surfing or staying in unsuitable accommodation, while a 2017 Mission Australia report found mental health was a major contributing factor to youth homelessness.

"In a society like ours, it's unacceptable so many don't have a home and are sleeping rough. It's not good for their health, it's dangerous," Chappell said.

He said his foundation has raised around $400,000 for the issue in recent years, helping in particular a group in Armidale called Backtrack. Chappell hoped the first year of the SCG sleepout -- the first of many, he hoped -- would substantially raise that figure.

"It's always struck me that a lot of these kids haven't had the advantages I’ve had. If we could help a few back on track, the domino effect that will have on so many lives will be huge," he said.

"They don't choose to be homeless, it’s happened by accident, through family circumstances or mental illness. If we can give them a second chance, many would benefit from it."

Starc, one of world cricket's most fearsome pace bowlers, is among the current stars who have signed up for the sleepout.

"I definitely haven't slept out on the SCG but I've been out there on a few cold nights playing," he laughed.

"Youth homelessness is a growing issue. There's over 44,000 young Australians homeless. It’s the least we can do. There’s a lot of cricketers going and it's just something small we can do to help raise awareness."

Sthalekar, a member of the foundation's board and a fellow Australian cricket captain, said participants would be sleeping rough on one of the nation's most famous sporting grounds, giving those athletes a different perspective than they one they might be used to from their playing days.

Also involved in the sleepout would be some of the Backtrack participants, to give the sporting stars a first-hand education on the issue.

"They'll get soup and bread for the night, cardboard on the grass and sleeping bags.  The idea around it is to share the stories between the young kids who have experienced homelessness and those athletes, so we hope the lessons will be quite amazing," she told ten daily.

"When you're stuck in athlete world, in the one percent, you don't have much exposure to these things."