The Student

Sleep in the Park: world’s largest sleep-out to end homelessness a success

Image: Craig McEwan

On Saturday 9 December, 8,000 people gathered at Princes Street Gardens for Sleep in the Park, the world’s largest-scale sleep-out to show their support for the 11,000 homeless households in Scotland. The event was organised by Social Bite, and £3.6 million was already raised before the event began. Of this, £0.5million was given by an anonymous donor on Saturday afternoon.

The charity has received visits from philanthropists including Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney. Last night, Bob Geldof was among the masses of people braving the cold in Princes Street Gardens, as well as several Scottish government ministers, and various members of the acts performing. These included Liam Gallagher, Deacon Blue, Amy MacDonald and Frightened Rabbit. John Cleese also told fundraisers a bedtime story, while Rob Brydon presented the show.

A minimum of £100 was raised by each participant to attend the sleep-out, which happened to hit one of the coldest weekends Edinburgh has had this season, with lowest temperatures at -7℃. The largest corporate donation was a huge £27,000, while the largest individual donation was £11,000.

Moreover, Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, has pledged that “If we manage to raise £50,000 thethe University will be able to proudly sponsor one of the proposed houses at the new Social Bite Village in Granton.”

In a news release, Josh Littlejohn MBE, Social Bite co-founder, said: “Tonight was the night when people from all walks of life came together in Scotland, to stick up for the most vulnerable people among us. This is the night that we collectively gave a voice to the people who have never had one.”

Social Bite started as a sandwich shop on Rose Street in Edinburgh in 2012, and has grown to be Scotland’s leading independent corporate catering businesses. The charity is the largest distributor of free fresh food to the homeless in the UK, giving out over 100,000 items of food and hot drinks per year. A quarter of the business’ staff are also homeless, employed and supported t get back into permanent accommodation.

Littlejohn continued: “Scotland is a small enough country, a compassionate enough country and a collaborative enough country, where nobody has to be homeless here. If we put our heads together, we can wipe out homelessness in five years.

“It is not a question of resource; it is simply a question of focus, and what the participants have all done tonight, by giving up their beds, is put a razor-sharp focus on the issue. I would like to thank all of the participants for creating this movement. I would like to thank Clydesdale Bank for raising £500,000. And I would like to thank EdIndex and Wheatley Group for making a bold commitment of offering almost 500 homes to rough sleepers and homeless people.

“We won’t end homelessness after one night, but we have made one giant leap towards that goal. And that is the victory of everyone who took part.”