Kyle Sandilands is still so troubled by his year sleeping rough in this teens he fears he might end up ‘blubbering’ when he beds down in a cardboard box for charity.
The top-rating radio host cannot escape his experiences as a homeless 15-year-old in Brisbane when he lived in constant fear of being bashed or raped in his sleep.
‘It’s always there,’ the KIIS 1065 breakfast presenter tells Daily Mail Australia. ‘That’s what drives me. The fear of being in that box again.
‘I didn’t even realise until really this year that that was a huge internal fear of mine – being that kid that’s left with nothing and back on the street.’
Sandilands has revealed he still follows odd habits from his nine months on the streets, regularly gorging on sliced bread and guzzling bottles of milk, just like those he stole when living on his wits.
Kyle Sandilands, pictured with girlfriend Imogen Anthony, has told how he is still haunted by his time as a homeless teenager, ahead of getting back inside a cardboard box for charity
He has also opened up about his extraordinary generosity, giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars – sometimes thousands in cash to groups of homeless people – from his $6million annual earnings.
Sandilands has agreed to take part in this year’s Sleep Under the Stars charity event for the youth homelessness charity Stepping Stone House and admits he is already dreading it.
The 47-year-old has worked previously promoting the event but this year is going to be different as he will be forced to finally confront one of his worst ongoing fears.
‘This one really reached out to me because I think it’s a great way of showing people it’s f***ed when you’re roughing it, living in a cardboard box on the street,’ he says.
‘But that’s driven me to work hard and I think I’ve avoided that actually, getting out and laying down on the ground, because that was like an internal fear.’
Sandliands has told himself: ‘Shake that off, you little p****y and get out there and do it.’
‘Seriously, the thought of being on a cardboard box again – even though it’s in a fun environment – is hell on earth to me and a big sort of dark issue,’ he says.
‘I’m really dreading it. I could be a blubbering mess on the night and being consoled by children. I hope not. I think I’ll keep my s*** together.’
Kyle Sandilands shortly after an aunt rescued him from living on the streets. He is pictured with the promotional vehicle he drove for Townsville radio station 4TO in his first media job
Kyle and his younger brother Chris (left) grew up in Brisbane. Karl (right, in school uniform) says he was a good kid who found himself homeless aged 15 after a wild party at his home
Sandilands, one half of the Kyle & Jackie O Show, is not sure exactly what to expect when he beds down for the night under the Sydney Harbour Bridge on October 26.
He is not worried about the hard surface; as long as his little cardboard castle keeps most of the water out, he can physically handle it.
‘To this day, I still lay on the floor at home to watch TV instead of on the couch,’ he says. ‘It’s one of those things that I don’t mind the hard surface. Maybe because I’m covered in soft skin and blubber.
To this day, I still lay on the floor at home to watch TV instead of on the couch.
‘I can make myself comfortable on a hard, cold surface.’ Another of his quirky habits also dates to when Sandlilands was homeless and stole loaves of bread and cartons of milk.
‘I’ll still just guzzle milk out of the bottle and I’ll grab three or four bits of plain white bread with nothing on it and I’ll just eat it,’ he says.
‘It is a bit odd. It’s definitely a throw-back from the past.’
Sandilands has previously talked about his time sleeping rough when he was kicked out of his family home aged just 15.
His breakfast co-host Jackie ‘O’ Henderson has sometimes expressed frustration at her colleague recounting the tale, once exclaiming, “We have to go through this again?”
A young Kyle Sandilands pictured with his father Peter, who died in 2016. Sandilands says he was kicked out of the home he shared with his mother Pam and stepfather David aged 15
‘I could be a blubbering mess on the night and being consoled by children,’ says Kyle Sandilands of sleeping in a cardboard box. ‘I hope not. I think I’ll keep my s*** together’
While his mother Pam and stepfather David were away on a lawn bowls bus trip, Sandilands reluctantly hosted a party for his friends. His parents came home early while he was driving their car around with his mates piled into it.
‘I went from really good kid to monster in one night and that was the end of everything normal to me,’ he says.
‘So they came home, freaked out, everyone got chased out including me and I just never went home.
I just had nowhere to go so I just sort of bedded down in some big pile of cardboard boxes…
‘But I could have. At the time I just didn’t think it was an option because they were so strict and it was like a bit of a military camp at my place.’
Sandilands took off on his pushbike and camped out at friends’ homes for about six weeks until he ran out of places to sleep.
‘I was only halfway through Year 10 or whatever it was and then one night I just had nowhere to go so I just sort of bedded down in some big pile of cardboard boxes behind a little supermarket in Brisbane,’ he says.
Sandilands found himself living behind that convenience store at Wynnum, 14km east of Brisbane’s central business district.
SLEEPING UNDER THE STARS
Stepping Stone House is a Sydney-based charity that provides safe homes for homeless youth.
Its biggest annual fundraising event is Sleep Under the Stars, to be held at Hickson Reserve beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge on October 26.
The event brings people of all ages together to experience a night of sleeping under the stars in a cardboard box-made shelter without much else.
Radio personality Kyle Sandilands is the event’s ambassador and main supporter. He will take part in this year’s event.
The overall homeless population in Australia is estimated at 116,000. On the 2016 Census night, 38 per cent of Australia’s homeless population was under the age of 25.
Last year’s Sleep Under the Stars event raised $275,000, up from $75,000 in 2015. This year Stepping Stone House aims to raise $400,000 to provide essential care and education for 13 young people for a year.
Stepping Stone House CEO Jason Juretic said the rate of youth homelessness in Australia was ‘unacceptable’.
‘If we hit our target of $400,000 we will be able to keep 13 children and young people off the street for a year,’ Mr Juretic said. ‘During this time, they will get education and employment support so they can look forward to a bright future where they lead successful independent lives.’
To date, more than 450 people have successfully achieved responsible independence through Stepping Stone House’s provision of mentorship, outdoor education, learning and development programs, and community volunteering.
Source: Stepping Stone House
LIFE ON THE STREETS: SLEEPING ON BOXES AND STEALING MILK
He was on the streets for about nine months, occasionally finding shelter at a friend’s place for a party or weekend. ‘But inevitably some stage shortly after that I’d be back in the box again,’ he says.
‘The worst part of my week was when the garbo would come and I’d show up to go to sleep and all the boxes were gone.
I just thought, ‘Jesus, there’s not much opportunity going down this road.’
‘Eventually I found my way to a horse float and met some other kids that were also wayward and homeless and they were living in this horse float behind the service station just up the road from where I was camping and so I moved into there.’
The other homeless kids in the horse float had stolen clothes from a St Vincent de Paul bin. It could be warm inside and ‘everyone was a nice kid’.
Unlike some of his companions, Sandilands did not resort to taking drugs or committing violent crime. He couldn’t have afforded drugs even if he wanted them.
Radio star Kyle Sandilands cannot forget being homeless. ‘It’s always there,’ he told Daily Mail Australia in an exclusive interview. ‘That’s what drives me. The fear of being in that box again’
‘We were just kids,’ he says. ‘The older ones were on drugs and off their faces and doing break and enters and stuff like that.
‘I thought, “Jesus, there’s not much opportunity going down this road.”
‘Some people were robbing people from ATMs and I was like, I can’t do that. That’s how they were eating when I met them and then I showed them how I was eating, just stealing the milk and the bread.’
Sandilands says that was his entire diet most days of the week.
‘That’s it. Nothing but milk and bread. Because I was too gutless to steal from inside the shop when it was open, so I would always steal what was delivered before the shop was open.
‘But when other kids were saying, “We’re going to rob this old person at the ATM”, I was like, “Are you f***ing joking?” There was no way I could do that.’
Another challenge for the homeless Sandilands was simply filling in his time during the day.
Top-rating radio host Kyle Sandilands, pictured with co-host Jackie O, says he has given away hundreds of thousands of dollars – often to homeless people – and always without publicity
‘It’s so boring,’ he says. ‘There’s nothing to do. And unfortunately your only entertainment is people with mental health issues who are running around you.’
Sandilands remembers some good times, like listening to the radio coming out of the speakers above the bowsers at the petrol station at night. That is when he fell in love with the medium.
Radio was sort of my escape, listening to that rubbish. And now I produce that rubbish.
‘I just got obsessed with it,’ he says. ‘Radio was sort of my escape, listening to that rubbish. And now I produce that rubbish. So it’s a full circle situation.’
There was no help from government departments and he did not know how to access charities.
‘So I never really had money. I never had money the whole time. I would just eat and drink that milk and bread and wander around during the day and listen to the radio at night. Sleep for a few hours on and off.
‘And it was a bit terrifying. Nothing ever really happened to us but I was always petrified of being attacked or bashed or raped. Or, you know, some horrible thing happening to us.’
A young Kyle Sandilands, second from right in Scouts uniform, next to his brother Chris with their father Peter and Peter’s second family. Peter died of liver and bowel cancer in 2016
‘I was horrified. Always scared. I was too scared to sleep. Every noise I’d wake up. Even now, to this day, I have to sleep with the television on quite loud. I tune out to that volume.
‘Because if the TV wasn’t on I would wake up if a pin dropped. If the TVs off, even if the wind’s blowing, I’ll wake up.
Always scared. I was too scared to sleep… Even now, to this day I have to sleep with the television on quite loud.
‘You don’t realise until you get older that you carry a lot of these things right throughout your life.’
As well as fearing for his safety and feeling hungry, cold and bored, Sandilands lacked some other basic necessities.
‘I never washed,’ he says. ‘Very rarely would I wash. I pretty much wore the same clothes the entire time.
‘I was a rat. Like a gutter rat.’
THE RESUCE: HOW AN AUNT SAVED KYLE FROM HOMELESSNESS
Help came when his aunt Jill, a nurse, came across Sandilands by chance one day and insisted he move in with her family in Townsville, about 1,300km north.
‘She just said, “You’re just coming. There’s no question. You’re just coming”. Inside I said thank God, but on the outside I was still saying f*** you all.
A teenage Kyle Sandilands scored his first gig in radio driving a promotional vehicle for Townsville’s 4TO. Months earlier he had been sleeping rough on the streets of Brisbane
It was in Townsville with his aunt’s encouragement that Sandilands got his first job in radio, driving a promotional vehicle for the station 4TO.
To this day he has no idea what happened to any of his fellow homeless kids after he made that escape.
‘I’m so glad I did it because I have no idea where those other kids are,’ he says of getting off the streets.
I’ve always hoped that someone would reach out from back then. Because I worry if they are even alive.
‘I thought over the years being on TV and on the radio in every city someone would reach out and go remember me. But no. No one. Not one word. Not one email.
‘They could be dead for all I know. Or they just might not be aware. Who knows? I’ve always hoped that someone would reach out from back then. Because I worry if they are even alive.
‘But they may not even register. I was a very skinny, tall, malnutritioned-looking kid and now I’m a fat, grey-headed, bearded, loudmouth. They might not have put two and two together, you know?’
Sandlilands prefers to think his former horse float mates got their lives back on track.
‘I decided that they’re all good and they just don’t remember,’ he says.
The organisers of this year’s Sleep Under the Stars event below the Sydney Harbour Bridge hope to raise $400,000 for homeless young people. Previous participants are pictured here
GIVING AWAY HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN CASH
Sandilands says he has spent ‘hundreds of thousands’ of dollars over the years helping others, often handing out cash to homeless people in the street.
I don’t go on the radio and say, ‘I’ve given away three grand this week randomly to homeless people.’
‘I always give them money,’ he says. ‘Even in America. I’ve got a house in LA and there’s so many homeless people there. Every f***ing traffic light there’s people rattling the box or holding the sign and I give them everything I’ve got. Because I just think, “Oh well, I’ve got 700 in the wallet, hey, here’s 700″… And it’s my pleasure to do it.
‘I don’t tell anyone. I don’t go on the radio and say, “I’ve given away three grand this week randomly to homeless people”.
‘All the time I do that. All the time. Even at Christmas I’ll go down to Surry Hills, I’ll get five grand out of the bank and I’ll go down to all those homeless people underneath the train bridge at Surry Hills and, you know, just shell it around.
‘It’s not as if I’m feeling the pinch.
‘They could be dead for all I know,’ Kyle Sandilands says of his fellow homeless kids from his stint on the streets. ‘Who knows?’ He is pictured here in 2007 in the Big Brother house
‘People go, “You shouldn’t give them money, the’re probably going to use it on drugs and alcohol” and I don’t give a f***.
‘When you’re living under a bridge if you want to have a bottle of bourbon you get yourself a bottle of bourbon. I don’t give a f*** if they hammer it with heroin.
It looks a bit wankerish turning up in a Rolls Royce with a fist full of hundreds and spreading it around like Santa Claus.
‘Whatever. If you want to go out and buy a barbecue meat pack then go out and buy a barbecue meat pack.’
Sandilands says giving away money like that makes him feel good ‘because there was none of that around when I was there.’
‘I go by myself,’ he says. ‘I don’t take anyone with me, I just like doing it from time to time. And it’s not just at Christmas. Sometimes if I’m feeling in the mood I’ll just do it.
‘It looks a bit wankerish turning up in a Rolls Royce with a fist full of hundreds and spreading it around like Santa Claus.
‘I’m just really lucky,’ says Sandilands, whose aunt helped pull him out of homeless in the 1980s. He is pictured here with fellow Australian Idol judges Mark Holden and Marcia Hines
‘But hey, I say, I was homeless once too. There’s a way out of that. Good luck to you. Spend it on whatever you want.
‘I don’t want to be down there preaching. But I just want to give them little messages of hope. Or just let them know he got out of it. Sometimes that’s all you need. There is a way out.’
A STROKE OF GOOD LUCK: IT COULD HAVE BEEN SO MUCH WORSE
Sandilands is grateful he grabbed the ‘olive branch’ his aunt extended to him.
Once you go bad it’s very difficult to get out of it.
‘But I so easily also could not have grabbed it,’ he says. ‘It was one of those situations, you know.
‘I’m just really lucky. And I didn’t want to stay in that situation. Other people, they don’t have the opportunity of a family member reaching out. They don’t get the opportunity to rescue themselves.
‘Or they get in trouble because they break the law to survive. And then they get into that whole system, into youth detention and a life of all that. Once you go bad it’s very difficult to get out of it.
Kyle Sandilands and Jackie ‘O’ Henderson arrive for the debut single launch by pop group Scandal’Us at Sydney’s Planet Hollywood in 2001. The pair are ratings winners on KIIS FM
‘A glimmer of hope sometimes is all it takes. I thought, “You know what, that’s what it took for me – a glimmer of hope”. And someone extending their hand to help.’
Sandilands does not know what would have happened if he had not left the streets.
Asked if he would still be alive he says: ‘I would like to think I would be but in reality I probably would have turned and gone down the dark side of things.’
It’s always there. That’s what drives me. The fear of being in that box again.
‘Who knows what would have happened because that was my one opportunity that was handed to me.
‘I’ve thought of this a million times. Because I was uneducated, I hadn’t even finished Year 10. Still to this day, no Year 10 certificate, but earning $6million a year.’
Sandilands still has that fear of being homeless, despite his professional success and making a fortune on radio and television.
‘It’s always there,’ he says. ‘That’s what drives me. The fear of being in that box again. That’s why I’ve avoided it until this year, laying down on the box.’
Sandilands is prepared to confront his fears about his past for Sleep Under the Stars because he cares about the cause.
From humble beginnings at Townsville’s 4TO, Kyle Sandilands has gone on to rule the radio airwaves. He is pictured here with singer Jennifer Lopez at Sydney’s Darling Harbour in 2001
‘There’s so many homeless kids,’ he says. ‘Like there’s thousands and thousands and thousands. And that, in this country, to me that’s ridiculous. It’s horrible.’
Homelessness for Sandilands meant growing up faster than other kids.
‘I knew nothing. I was like a nerdy, Brisbane nerd. I was no hustler at all but you learn real quick.
Whatever you go through as a child it builds your building blocks of who you become as an adult.
‘I grew up real quick. I was a very young 15-year-old and by the time I was like 16 living with my aunty I was a full hustler who was scared of nothing and had strange survival instincts.
‘Whatever you go through as a child it builds your building blocks of who you become as an adult.
‘So I just happen to have gone through that weird phase. And I’m still guzzling the milk and still having weirdo sleeps.’
To get involved or donate to the cause please visit Sleep Under the Stars. For volunteering opportunities or further information, please go to the same website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kyle Sandilands’s new program Trial By Kyle debuts on Network Ten tonight at 8.30pm