Business executive Angelique Boileau understands the pain and trauma that comes from being without a home. 

At just two years of age, she and her sister were left to fend for themselves when her mother was arrested by Russian officials in the wake of World War II. 

Now, a world away from her childhood in Hungary, Ms Boileau remembers living with different relatives for a year, before she and her sister found permanent refuge with an aunt in a one-bedroom house.

“I felt desolate, I felt totally at a loss as to why my mother was being taken away,” she said.

Now 72, Ms Boileau, who is taking part in the Vinnies CEO Sleepout for the 11th time, still remembers the pain. 

“I recall being sad a lot,” she said.

“I remember my sister and I would huddle up at night-time in bed asking, ‘Are you okay?'”

She was reunited with her mother three years later. 

Still unable to find shelter, they stayed with her aunt, living and sleeping on top of one other.

“Four of us in one bed,” she said.

The first portrait taken of Angelique (right) with her mother and sister after her mother’s release from prison in 1951.(Supplied)

Despite facing displacement, Ms Boileau said her greatest challenge was being separated from her mother.

She said she wanted others to know the importance of keeping families together.

“I’d dream that someone would come and take her away again. To me, that was the most scary thing,” she said.

“If children can be kept together with their parents, [not having a home] is not quite as scary.”

New wave of homelessness

While Ms Boileau’s experience of homelessness is in the past, the issue is one currently facing thousands of South Australians.

She will be sleeping rough at Adelaide Oval on Thursday, along with other South Australian business and community leaders.

While she will bid for some comfort items, the proceeds of which will go to the cause, she said she wanted to see more leaders get involved in programs like the CEO Sleepout.

“If you have a little bit to spare, you should always, always be thinking about the less fortunate in your community,” she said.

Generosity is an attribute she said she learned from her mother, and one she hoped to spread to other business leaders.

“Learn to give, because it’ll make you happy,” she said. 

The event aims to raise $900,000, which the St Vincent de Paul Society said could provide 8,280 nights of shelter and 33,120 meals.

The not-for-profit’s chief executive Evelyn O’Loughlin said public donations were urgently needed.

“The men’s crisis centre turns away around 15 people per day … and the women’s centre is always full,” she said.

“We’re helping people buy tents, which is something we’ve never had to do before.”

Ms O’Loughlin said the state was experiencing a “new wave of homelessness.”

According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021 census, more than 7,000 South Australians are homeless, but the organisation believed that number was likely much higher now. 

“We’re also seeing donations and support for giving reducing because of the cost-of-living crisis,” Ms O’Loughlin said.

“The demand [for our services] is great, so we would really like to see South Australians to get behind funding for the CEO sleepout.”

Over 7,000 South Australians are homeless, ABS data shows.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

While Ms Boileau has previously bid up to $12,000 for a sofa at a previous sleepout, her offer for this year remains a closely guarded secret.

“It’s just a fun way of giving more to your fundraising efforts,” she said.

“I’m hoping that people will realise just how important it is to be generous to the community.”