Billed as “The World’s Biggest Sleepout”, last night’s Sleep In The Park at Edinburgh was a huge success. Organised by Josh Littlejohn, co-founder of Social Bite which helps the homeless through cafes, a restaurant and fundraising events, said he was “humbled” by the support. Around 8,000 people braved freezing Edinburgh conditions within Princes Street Gardens in a bid to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, who were told to expect temperatures to drop as low as -6degC in the capital on Saturday night.
Scottish Deputy First Minister John Swinney, Liam Gallagher, John Cleese and Sir Bob Geldof joined thousands of people who slept out in freezing conditions in Edinburgh to raise money to tackle homelessness. Mr Swinney, Communities Secretary Angela Constance and Housing Minister Kevin Stewart also spent the night in the gardens.
John Cleese performed a bedtime story, while Sir Bob Geldof addressed the crowd. Speaking to Sky News at the event, Geldof spoke of his days of being homeless in London:
“I slept on the street and I found a church in Holborn, a crypt, where they gave you bit of a sponge that you could sleep on.My great fear was that at the age I am now I would be on a park bench and would be starting vacantly and listlessly at nothing.”
Mr Littlejohn commented:
“I’m blown away by the amount of people who have turned out. 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.
“It looks like we’re going to have about 8,000 people come and sleep out which is mind-blowing really for a country like Scotland, a small country, to get behind a cause like that.
“That’s going to translate to somewhere in the region of between £3 million and £4 million that’s going to be raised. It’s an absolutely incredible result and I’m really humbled by it.”
“There are 11,000 homeless households in Scotland. When I think about all of the amazing different people, sleeping in this garden tonight, the one thing that strikes me about these statistics of homelessness is that they are not insurmountable.
“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.”