A mass sleepout aimed at eradicating homelessness in Scotland has raised £1 million – more than a month before the event is held in Edinburgh city centre.
The social entrepreneur behind Sleep in the Park revealed the milestone had been reached as he published a major new report lifting the lid on the scale of problem across the country.
The study, commissioned by Social Bite, the social enterprise set up by Josh Littlejohn, also sets out a “roadmap” for tackling homelessness north of the Border over the next few years.
It suggests that around 470 people could be helped into mainstream tenancies as a result of Social Bite’s initiative, which aims to raise £4m from the forthcoming sleepout.
It has also emerged that Clydesdale Bank has pledged a further £500,000 for what is hoped to be the world’s biggest sleepout in Princes Street Gardens on 9 December, which is being billed as Scotland’s answer to Live Aid, after Sir Bob Geldof agreed to throw his weight behind the event .
Around 3,000 places have been snapped up for Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park, which will see stars like Liam Gallagher, Amy MacDonald and Deacon Blue “busking” before the sleepover.
Littlejohn said: “We’re blown away by the generosity of the public and it’s phenomenal that we’ve reached the £1m mark. We’re right on track to hit our £4m target and there are only 3,000 spaces left, so people shouldn’t hang about if they want to join the world’s biggest sleepout and end homelessness in Scotland for good.”
The Heriot-Watt University study for Social Bite warns of a growing crisis in Edinburgh in particular due to widespread reports of increasing number of people sleeping on the streets, emergency accommodation “struggling to cope with demand” and “acute pressure” on all forms of affordable housing. Growing numbers of EU migrants are said to be sleeping rough without access to public funding in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, while the authorities in Glasgow are said to be under “significant” pressure due to the number of asylum seekers being given refugees status and accepted as homeless.
Councils in Edinburgh and Dundee were found to be over-reliant on bed and breakfasts and hostels to provide accommodation for homeless people. The study reported an “urgent need” to expand the availability of affordable housing in Edinburgh and for Dundee to deploy more temporary furnished flats.
The research recommends the roll-out of a “Housing First” model, offering homeless people a permanent home accompanied by personalised support packages.
Mr Littlejohn said: “Housing First basically means that rather than making homeless people live through years of expensive temporary accommodations and rough sleeping, we provide access to a mainstream tenancy straight away and invest in a well-resourced support structure to support them in that tenancy.
“The study gives us a very clear roadmap of how homelessness could be brought right down and the issue could be solved. The statistics are certainly not so big that it is beyond our combined wit as a nation to end homelessness in Scotland.”