All set for ‘game changing’ Sleep in the Park homelessness fundraiser

Josh Littlejohn, organiser of Sleep in the Park, Picture: Jon Savage Photography
Josh Littlejohn, organiser of Sleep in the Park, Picture: Jon Savage Photography
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“Fantastic. Having your own front door key means you have somewhere to put your head down away from the cold and rain, and gives you the confidence to be independent,” said ‘Dan’, who has been homeless in the past.

Dan, from Edinburgh, was giving his reaction to the ‘game changing’ announcement that two of Scotland’s biggest housing providers are to offer almost 500 homes to homeless people.

It comes ahead of tonight’s ‘Sleep in the Park’ which will see over 8,000 people take part in the world’s biggest fund-raising sleep out in the city’s Princes Street Gardens. A large part of the £2.8m raised so far will go to support people in their new homes.

EdIndex and Wheatley Group are giving 475 properties.

Around 275 permanent housing association and council homes will be provided in Edinburgh through the EdIndex Partnership, made up of representatives from Edinburgh City Council and 19 partner registered social landlords.

Wheatley Group will give up to 200 homes for rough sleepers in Glasgow and the central belt.

With the ten homes being created at the Social Bite Village in Granton, the total rises to just under 500.

Josh Littlejohn, MBE, co-founder of the charity Social Bite which organises Sleep in the Park, said: “The pledges of homes represents a radical shift in structure with the way we give shelter to homeless people. It is a real game changer because it will look to stop the use of bed and breakfast and hostels. It means that rather than making vulnerable homeless people live in the homelessness ‘system’, sleeping in hostels, the streets and bed and breakfasts, we offer them a place to call home, and provide a wrap-around and well-resourced support package for them to make sure they sustain that tenancy.”

Jonny Kinross, chief executive of the Grassmarket Community Project in Edinburgh, where Dan is a member, said: “Lots of guys who come to our soup kitchen find it hard to move on until they get their own home.

“Many walk in with all their possessions stuffed in a few poly bags. That takes away their dignity and self respect,” said Mr Kinross.

“When their basic needs are met it is so much easier to tackle the issues which them homeless. When all your energy is going to getting something to eat, keeping warm and keeping safe it is very difficult to be aspirational.”

Social Bite started as a sandwich shop in Edinburgh in 2012. It now has five shops in Scotland, two staff canteens, a central production kitchen in Livingston and one of the country’s leading independent corporate catering businesses.

One quarter of its staff are homeless and the charity has been visited by Hollywood superstars Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney.

Angela Constance, MSP, communities minister, said: “The Scottish Government is committed to eradicating rough sleeping which is why we established our Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, which Social Bite takes part in. We are already implementing their first recommendations to tackle rough sleeping this winter. That works continues as we strive to end rough sleeping for good.”