Next Saturday’s Sleep in the Park event in Edinburgh is billed as an attempt to end homelessness in Scotland. For good.
Up to 9,000 people will sleep in the cold for one night in Princes Street Gardens, or more likely, endure a very uncomfortable experience which doesn’t involve any sleep and leaves participants longing for the new day to arrive.
It is an impressive initiative, designed to raise enough money to fund housing, rehabilitation, job opportunities and the support to help homeless people get back on their feet.
Eradicating homelessness is a noble goal. And if it can be achieved, it works for everyone. Those who are caught in a downward spiral of destitution and desperation can quite literally have their lives saved, while those of us who can only see a filthy and shameful mess spoiling our view of the city centre architecture don’t have to worry about that inconvenience any longer.
Social entrepreneur Josh Littlejohn deserves all the support he can get with this drive. Homelessness is an awful fate for those who lose their way in life, or didn’t stand a chance in the first place. And without a helping hand, the chances of rebuilding life are stacked against them.
If there is a word of caution to insert here, it is that homelessness is like poverty; it has always been with us, and while it can be alleviated, eradication is another matter. Those who end up homeless find themselves in that situation because of another unfortunate circumstance, or an affliction. It is not just a matter of having lost the means of paying for a roof over their head.
But while the ultimate goal of eradication will be difficult to achieve, Sleep in the Park represents more than just a start in addressing the problem. As well as raising serious funds, the event is raising awareness of homelessness to a new level. And hopefully, also raising understanding of what homelessness actually means. It’s a matter that should be keeping us all awake at night.