Scottish charity campaigning to end homelessness with global Sleep Out

A pioneering charity event begun in Scotland two years ago is going global, with the aim of raising more than £40 million for homeless people worldwide.

Sleep in the Park, held in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh

The World’s Big Sleep Out is aiming to see 50,000 people around the globe spend a night outside this December to bring in support for people who have become homeless or been displaced due to conflict, natural disasters or poverty.

Gatherings are due to take place in up to 50 cities worldwide, including Edinburgh, London, Dublin, Los Angeles, New York, Madrid, Singapore, Amsterdam and New Delhi.

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The event comes on the back of the successful Sleep in the Park campaign, which began in Scotland in 2017 and has so far raised nearly £8m to help get people off the streets.

It is the brainchild of Josh Littlejohn, founder of Edinburgh-based homelessness charity Social Bite, which has created a specially designed “village” in the Scottish capital to help homeless people get their lives back on track.

Will Smith, Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Chris Hoy and Jamelia are among a number of celebrities, musicians, sporting heroes and politicians who are taking part in the World’s Big Sleep Out.

Members of the public are also being encouraged to host their own events to support the fundraising drive, thought to be the largest charity campaign in a generation.

Acclaimed actor Dame Helen Mirren, who will read a bedtime story to participants in London’s Trafalgar Square, said: “Homelessness on our streets is a real problem in the UK and for many nations throughout the world.

“This, coupled with an unprecedented number of refugees being displaced internationally, makes this a really important time to focus attention on the issue of global homelessness. The World’s Big Sleep Out campaign will play an important role in shining the political spotlight on the issues of homelessness and displacement whilst raising considerable funds to make a big difference.”

Mr Littlejohn said he was “blown away” by the response to the World’s Big Sleep Out so far and “incredibly excited” to have 50 cities taking part.

He added: “It doesn’t matter if you are taking part in Times Square or in your back garden with your family, by sleeping out for one night on 7 December we can simultaneously express our compassion for homeless people who have no other choice and raise life-saving funds to make a difference.

“We can also send a message to the world’s political leaders that urgent action is required to address the human suffering that we each witness on our streets every day.”

All money raised will be governed by new charity The World’s Big Sleep Out Trust.

Social Bite will receive half of all donations brought in, with the remaining 50 per cent going to global charities helping men, women and children who have lost their homes due to conflict, violence, natural disasters and poverty.

Funds raised in the United States will be managed by Unicef USA with support from the Robin Hood Foundation.

Social Bite started as a sandwich shop in Edinburgh’s Rose Street in August 2012 and has since grown to become a major driving force in tackling homelessness in Scotland.

A quarter of Social Bite staff are homeless and the charity has received visits from Hollywood superstars Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney.