Lee-Anne Lupton: Running from Adelaide to Melbourne to create awareness about homelessness
Almost 105,237 people in Australia are homeless, and on any given night one in 200 are without a home or any shelter. Numerous factors contribute to these worrying statistics including violence at home, poverty, drug use, lack of employment opportunities, and steep rents in cities, among others. In a bid to challenge the status quo, Adelaidean Lee-Anne Lupton is planning to undertake a ten-day run from Adelaide to Melbourne (725 km) in August 2019. The 40-year-old, who will be accompanied by her Border Collie, hopes that her run will create awareness about homelessness and initiate dialogue around ways to alleviate the same. She also wants people shrug off their nonchalance when it comes to homelessness and approach the issue with compassion.
In conversation with TAL, Lee-Anne speaks about the events that helped determine her resolve to undertake the run, her rigorous training schedule, and her companion for life, her pup.
Please tell us something about yourself and your lovely pup!
I was born in Toowoomba QLD to immigrant parents - my mother is Czech, and my father is Irish, they met in Australia. We spent the first few years of my life travelling through and living in different parts of Australia. After my parents divorced my mother brought my brother and me to Adelaide. I turned 40 a couple of months ago, and it feels a very grown-up age to be!
I am a voracious reader and also enjoy gardening a bit. I love frequenting the theatre, art galleries, museums, and dusty second-hand bookshops. I can also be found walking around getting semi-lost in urban and rural settings.
I am a project officer in the City of PAE Libraries, project managing the refurbishment of three of our library branches.
My constant companion is my pup who is a Border Collie and responds to the name Aoife (pronounced ee-fa). Aoife and I met when she came off the boat from Kangaroo Island. She is a bundle of hyperactivity right up until she naps - and is very affectionate and devoted to her circle of humans. But she is not too keen on other people! Aoife is five months old and is on track to be trained as my hearing assistance dog.
Coming to the run, what is it all about? And, when do you plan to do it?
I will be running from Adelaide City centre to Melbourne City centre over ten days in August 2019 to create awareness about homelessness and the organisations that are working hard to improve the situation. We (my pup, a support van/team, and I) will leave Adelaide very early on August 24, 2019, and am hoping to cover roughly 80 kilometres a day. I am still working on the final route and will need to be in contact with the relevant transport authorities before I can nail it down.
I have been thinking of executing this run for the last two years, but some personal events that occurred previous summer strengthened my resolve, and I decided to do it!
Why did you zero in on the issue of homelessness for the run?
I wanted to challenge myself and push as far as I can go, but mostly I felt like I have to do something huge to draw people's attention to the ever growing problem of homelessness in our cities.
I remember being in London when I was about nine years old, walking through an area that had so many people sleeping outside in the bitter cold. There were people on the doorsteps, tucked into alleyways, propped up against walls, to gain some semblance of shelter. That just broke my heart!
I don’t know if I was more moved than the adults because I was closer to the ground or that I hadn't learnt to look away yet, but that experience stayed with me all my life.
As I grew up, I had other interesting and sometimes heart touching interaction with those experiencing homelessness. There was this old indigenous man who started sobbing when I gave him my gloves on a very frosty Adelaide morning, or the beautiful souls I greet every day or the chap who was willing to talk about the crazy eyebrow trends while pulling food and cans out of a public bin after I accidentally fell over his belongings.
But one incident that occurred early one morning in Port Adelaide a few months ago really stayed in my mind. I was focussed on crossing a relatively busy road, and as I reached the other side, I saw a man - young, petite indigenous - unconscious, half on the road and half on the footpath. I stopped and pulled him up on to the pavement, placed him in the recovery position and started to render some minor first aid. Then I looked up to see if I could get some help and saw that at least five people were standing at a bus stop not more than 15 metres away; all of them looking at their feet, or their phones - anywhere but towards the young man and me. I am sure they had been there before me, and not one of them tried helping the young man out.
I was furious and decided that I would take up this run to show support for, and give a voice to people experiencing homelessness.
It is more than a year away, why did you start planning and talking about it so soon?
I think I started talking about the run so early for a couple of reasons. Firstly, to become accountable and track the progress of the planning and training. Secondly, I thought the longer people are exposed to the idea of the event, the higher will its success rate be. The idea is also to raise much-needed funds for organisations and people who are working with homeless people, and also to challenge the existing narrative around homelessness.
My Instagram account was a toe-dipping exercise, and I was surprised by the interest it generated. I am just an ordinary person, and I think I will have to work harder at marketing the event as compared to a sportsperson or a celebrity.
What kind of exercises/diets are you currently doing to build stamina for your run?
I am a vegan, so my diet is pretty simple. But, I confess to being a bit of a chocolate addict - especially partial to an almond milk hot chocolate at the moment!
I work crazy hours, am a single parent, and also do training, so I can get a bit lax in the food department. To 'do better' I have recently subscribed to a vegan fresh meal delivery service - it's working out pretty well so far!
My training right now is relatively low key - three or four runs around the 20-kilometre mark, a few 100 laps in the pool, an hour session with my trainer at the gym and an hour walking most nights each week. I will build up the tempo slowly and soon will start training eight or nine times a week with one very, very long run that will increase in distance with each week.
Considering that you will be running for ten days, what kind of challenges do you foresee and how do you think you will overcome them?
Single-handedly managing the planning, execution, and marketing of the event will become quite challenging going ahead. The scope of the event is significant, and I hope to find volunteers who will help out so that I can focus on the training.
I met with the Hutt Street Centre a couple of months ago, and they have a fantastic marketing team who will support the event, which means that is one less thing I have to pour energy into.
Another challenge will be finding corporate sponsorship to cover the cost of the event so that the donated amount can go straight to the organisations that need it.
Given the cause of the run, I am expecting some backlash. Some people have extreme views about homelessness and those who experience it. However, I hope that through the run I am able to encourage people to become more empathetic and less judgemental.
Other challenges include thinking about the weather during the run, traffic restrictions, wildlife, risk of injury, fatigue, etc. I also have to ensure I will have the mental stamina to endure the run, and that's when pup will become my solace! Her role is to pick me up when my mind (and many muscles) will be screaming at me to stop.
Is there a link people can use to support you financially in your fantastic endeavour?
There are so many ways people can get involved in this project! I will be seeking corporate sponsorship to cover the costs of the event - the van, the support crew, accommodation, insurance and so on.
There is a gofundme page that can be used for donations. All the money will go to the Hutt Street Centre, Catherine House and Fred's Van.
Throughout the lead up to the event, I will talk about the different organisations and service providers that are trying to alleviate the problem of homelessness. And, if the work done by them strikes a chord with someone, the latter might be able to support these organisations directly.
How can other Adelaideans help in this endeavour of yours?
The run is one of those projects that not only welcomes the input of others but thrives on it. It would be wonderful to get some involvement from those who could help with marketing, branding and merchandise, planning, logistics, training and gear, project planning, etc.
I would love to hear from individuals and groups who would be willing to help out along the way either by volunteering as part of the support crew – physios, podiatrists and massage therapists - or by helping us with food and accommodation on the journey or even a kind word of support.
Another way to get involved is by just going up to those sleeping on the streets, stopping and just saying hello! Ask them if they are alright, listen to them, share a laugh or a meal. Challenge that urge to look the other way, and instead, show compassion to those who may not be as blessed as us.
Your Instagram bio says you are hard of hearing. If you don’t mind (and we hope we are not coming across as insensitive), could you tell us how that happened? And, how do you manage to overcome the various challenges you face?
I am hearing impaired, or hard of hearing, or deaf with a little d – depending on your preferred expression. When I was three years old, I had the measles quite bad and lost some of my hearing, and over the last four or so years, I have lost even more.
I can't hear from my right ear and have significant hearing loss in my left. This means that I have no directional hearing, cannot tell where a sound is coming from, and that I rely heavily on lip reading to make sense of what is being said.
Sometimes I wonder if what I imagined people saying was more interesting than what they said! And there are times when I get it badly wrong.
It can be exhausting, and I am trying to work on my hearing so that I can work out the world around me better. My children find it frustrating when I come home from work, and I am done listening – often giving them the wrong answer to questions I have ‘misheard’.
The biggest challenge for me is having to remind people all the time to face me or to keep their hands away from their mouths while speaking. I realise that it can be annoying when someone wants my attention and have been calling my name for ages. Then they approach me completely frustrated. I am taken aback by their anger because I don't usually understand what led them to behave like that.
I would love it if people who say they want to learn sign language would learn some basic signs. I cannot tell you how happy my insides feel when someone signs good morning or adds in a simple sign while communicating with me.
What are your future plans like?
My future plans are to keep doing what I love – I am very lucky to have a great job, which challenges me in a positive way and brings me satisfaction. It also allows me to have a positive role to play within my immediate community. I want to keep running and to keep doing whatever I can to ease the burden of others. Oh! and, I want to laugh while I am at it.
Follow Lee-Anne's journey on Instagram.
To donate head over to gofundme page.