Social Bite pledges £3m to move homeless people into flats

The co-founder of a leading social enterprise has pledged £3 million of the money raised from Sleep in the Park to a Housing First initiative aiming to immediately move homeless people into their own flats.

Josh Littlejohn organised the Sleep in the Park event

Josh Littlejohn made the announcement ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s first visit to the Capital on Tuesday where they are scheduled to visit the Social Bite cafe premises on Rose Street.

The prince and his fiancée will be in the city to help celebrate Scotland’s 2018 Year of Young People during a day of engagements.

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Mr Littlejohn said the money raised from Sleep in the Park, which was held in December and involved thousands of people braving freezing temperatures to sleep overnight in Princes Street Gardens, would go towards providing support to immediately house homeless people in their own accommodation.

Former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher, Deacon Blue, Amy Macdonald and Frightened Rabbit provided music at the event before comedy legend John Cleese read everyone a bedtime story. Mr Littlejohn described the visit of Prince Harry and Ms Markle as a “great opportunity” to highlight homelessness.

He said: “Their office got in touch and asked if they could visit, so for us it’s a great opportunity to talk about this work and it keeps the 
momentum going on the issue of homelessness and the well-evidenced solutions. So hopefully we can use the media profile of the visit to propel that work.

“I believe they’re going to be in the shop for 30 minutes, so we’re going to have the opportunity to fully engage with them about these plans. Obviously they’re people who have a high degree of influence, so hopefully that further pushes the momentum on how we deal with homelessness.”

Mr Littlejohn said the Housing First campaign was recognised globally and by academics as the best solution to addressing the issue of homelessness. He said money would be distributed in Edinburgh and Glasgow, with talks planned to extend the proposal to other cities.

Mr Littlejohn added: “The current system is costly to society, in terms of funding the temporary accommodation and it also costs police time in terms of people being in and out of prison. It costs as they’re in and out of the NHS, so there’s all kinds of costs associated with the current homeless system. The homelessness sector and the academic evidence base suggest we work towards a system where the default response is when someone becomes homeless, we should rapidly rehouse them.”