Melbourne Entrepreneur to Launch SleepBus
Thursday, 3rd March 2016 at 2:55 pm
A Melbourne entrepreneur is fundraising to build a giant bus to provide overnight accommodation for people sleeping rough or homeless people.
Entrepreneur and chef Simon Rowe is the founder of the SleepBus – a giant blue bus with sleeping pods for individuals and families that he said would provide safe overnight accommodation for people until they get back on their feet.
“Using my 20–plus years of business experience, I set about developing a simple solution with a mission; to provide people sleeping ‘rough’, a safe overnight place to sleep,” Rowe said.
“The more I developed and researched a solution, the more I discovered what a good night’s sleep can do for a person’s physical and mental health. Just being able to sleep through the night, warm and safe, can give a person a whole new outlook on life.
“Sleep Bus is distinct, yet complementary, to existing efforts from other organisations supporting Australians experiencing or at risk of ending up on the streets. Our work aims to fill a ‘gap’, rather than overlapping or replicating activities that support the urgent needs of people in Australia.
“The least we can do is provide safe overnight accommodation to people sleeping rough in Australia, until they get back on their feet.”
Rowe said the concept was born 10 months ago and in that time he has set up a charity and will be applying for Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status to allow tax deductibility for donations.
He has set up a gofundme crowdfunding campaign and has raised almost $16,000 in just four days.
He said the bus design was completed and ready to go.
“The bus design includes 22 individual sleep pods, two toilets, 22 personal items lockers, under bus storage, eight pet kennels, security system, lighting system inside and out and an intercom system for family sleep pods with parental control locks. The toilet’s have been strategically located at the front of the bus to assist with the safety of guests within the bus,” he said.
“Each sleep pods comes with single bed inner spring mattress, pillows, sheets and blankets (washed daily). The pod has USB charging for mobile phones, personal light, lockable roller door, climate control and television with auxiliary channel running adverts for available services in the area to help with pathways out of homelessness.
“Each pod can be adapted for families, with parents able to control their child’s door lock and intercom for communication between designated family members only.
“We want at least one bus on the road by this coming winter. That one bus will provide 8,030 safe sleeps per year and can last up to 10 years before it needs major work or replacement. One bus costs approximately $50,000 to buy and build.”
He said he has had significant interest from corporate organisations, but they were keen to see proof of his concept.
“I am expecting significant investment from our future corporate partners. After all, we have a goal for 300-plus buses to build and operate across the country, we’ll need their help in a big way to reach our goals and provide enough safe sleeps across Australia.
He said Sleepbus had a huge goal to end the need for people to sleep rough in Australia.
“We will be just in Melbourne to start with, where I am based. We will be conducting our first trial in an outer suburb of Melbourne to test our systems and make sure we address any issues that may arise that we haven’t accounted for.
“Then two buses will be taken into Melbourne CBD and we will test our systems in the heart of a city where many will need our help. Both these trials run for 90 days each. After this, we have a massive seven bus initiative which I will provide more detail about at a later date.”
Rowe said he would be re-engaging with various councils as the project developed. However he said he hoped to launch at the end of May.
He said safety was always a concern for people who wanted to fund the project.
“We have three levels of security to help ensure everyone is safe and can enjoy a safe and quiet night’s sleep. A caretaker will stay on the bus through the night. The bus doors are closed after 8:30pm, should a guest leave after this time, they can not return, this is for safety and for the quiet enjoyment of others,” he said.
“The toilets are at the front of the bus, where the caretaker is located to ensure everyone is safe when leaving their sleep pod. The next level of security will be CCTV cameras which will be monitored by a central monitoring location and can call for assistance in an emergency. The last level of security is working with the local police.”
He said his plan was for each bus to be designated a location each night, where it was needed most.
Rowe said his own early experiences of hardship had led him to the Sleepbus concept.
“In 1993, I fell behind in my rent and was evicted. I had a job, but for the next four months I lived in my car while I saved up enough money for a month’s bond and a month’s rent on another place. I would park in a car park near my old place for the night, and in the morning’s I would drive to a caravan park near by, sneak in, have a shower and go to work,” he said.
“Since then, I have made a good living for years as a chef, and entrepreneur, for the most part living selfishly and not giving a second thought to those sleeping rough.”
He said that in May 2015, an encounter with a man curled up in the doona, on the hard concrete floor, trying to get some sleep at lunch time outside a St Kilda business spurred him on.
“For me, charity is practical. It’s the ability to use one’s position of influence, relative wealth and power to affect lives for the better,” he said.
Rowe said he was using a Facebook page to keep his supporters informed.