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When Matt Gidley usually visits Hunter Stadium, he leaves after a football match and returns home to the comfort of his warm bed.

The Newcastle Knights’ CEO was again given a different perspective of the Club’s home venue when he took part in the third annual Newcastle CEO Sleepout on Thursday night.

Gidley experienced what it was like to sleep rough in the bitter cold outside Hunter Stadium as part of the event that raises funds and awareness for St Vincent De Paul’s services for the homeless.

“We met some people that are currently experiencing homelessness and heard their stories which was really harrowing,” Gidley said after the event. 

At this year’s Newcastle Sleepout, attended by 30 local CEOs, a money system was introduced where participants were given a pretend $20 note which could be used to buy some cardboard to make a bed for the evening, a pillow, soup or a cup of tea. 

“It forced you to think a bit more about having limited resources and how you are going to spend, which is an insight into homelessness,” he added.

“Some people have no money at all to buy those types of things so rely on support from organisations like St Vincent De Pauls to provide them with food and shelter."

While Gidley returned for the third time since the event’s Newcastle launch in 2013, he admits sleeping rough in winter never gets any easier.

“Every year it’s difficult,” he said. 

“As I lay there last night, you're experiencing the cold and no one gets a lot of sleep because it’s difficult. 

“You think about how hard it would be to find somewhere safe to sleep every night.

“It’s interesting to hear from people that are homeless that they try to stay up during the course of the night, whether that’s in trains or in parks, and then sleep in the day when it’s a lot safer and there’s more people around."

The highlight of the annual event for Gidley is learning about the inspirational work services like St Vincent De Paul do in the community to support people in need. 

105,000 men, women and children experience homelessness each night across Australia with 60 per cent of these people under the age of 35. 

“It’s a wonderful cause and a cause I’m passionate about,” he said. 

“The vast majority of the night was spent hearing from these amazing people and the work of St Vincent De Paul and the volunteers at the Matthew Talbot Centre which supports’ homeless men in particular. 

“They do an amazing job.

“A lot of the time it’s just bad luck and they have fallen through the cracks for whatever reason and have come from recently relatively normal home and family lifestyles to ending up homeless and on the streets. 

“The people that support them, keep them safe and give them hope, they are the real heroes in our community, so it’s wonderful to hear from them and absolutely inspiring.”

It’s not too late to contribute to Matt’s CEO Sleepout fund. Click here to make a donation.