60,000 join World’s Big Sleep Out

Sleep out edinburgh 001 a sa

Brian Cox speaks to participants in Edinburgh

Events calling for an end to homelessness took place in 52 cities across the world, with Scots amongst those taking part

9th December 2019 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Tens of thousands of people across the world slept out in the cold to call for an end to homelessness.

The World’s Big Sleep Out kicked off in Hutt City, New Zealand on Saturday (7 December); Brisbane followed, then through Asia to Europe, including Edinburgh’s West Princes Street Gardens, London’s Trafalgar Square; jumping across the pond to Times Square in New York before the grand finale at the iconic Rose Bowl Stadium in LA, totalling 52 cities globally.

From freezing conditions in Chicago to a heatwave in Brisbane, 60,000 participants braved all weather conditions to come together and sleep out just for one night in support of those who have no other choice. Each event provided a mixture of entertainment and opportunities for participants to reflect on the serious issue as they stood in solidarity with homeless and displaced people throughout the world and helped raise money for charities working at local and international levels.

100% of funds raised by the public will go towards homelessness charities, with the money invested to sustainably help around 1,000,000 homeless and displaced people all over the world. As well as benefiting local charities, international partners for the campaign include UNICEF USA, the Malala Fund and the Institute of Global Homelessness.

The campaign, founded by Josh Littlejohn MBE, originated from a small café in Edinburgh called Social Bite which started offering employment to homeless people. The charity organised a small sleep out in 2016 with 270 participants and the events have grown each year in Scotland, culminating in this global night of solidarity.

Around the world, famous faces came together to support one of the largest charity campaigns in a generation. Will Smith and Dame Helen Mirren led the way by telling a bedtime story in Times Square (New York) and Trafalgar Square (London) respectively while  Seth Green read in LA, Ruth Jones in Cardiff and Gregor Fisher in Edinburgh.

Incredible music performances, speeches and poems came from Travis, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Tom Walker, Jake Bugg, Gang of Youths and Sir Chris Hoy in London; Ziggy Marley, Ellie Goulding, Meghan Trainor  and Randy Jackson in LA; Izzy Bizu, Be Charlotte, Angie McMahon and Brian Cox in Edinburgh; The Script in Dublin; Charlotte Church in Cardiff; Frank Turner in Chicago and many more.

Alongside the main flagship events, “host your own” events were held in 23 different countries including UK, US, Japan, Poland, Nigeria, Slovakia, Turkey and Zimbabwe in gardens, school playgrounds, office car parks, shopping malls and even an aircraft hangar. The bedtime story for the UK “host your own” events was provided by Holly Willoughby.

Social Bite’s Wee Sleep Out also took place around Scotland on Saturday night with an estimated 6,000 young people taking part in their own events, with a bedtime story provided by David Walliams. 

As well as private individuals, the campaign has been backed by some generous sponsors and major corporate donors including Oak Foundation, M&G, The Right to Shower / Unilever, Deloitte, Arup and Dundee’s Insights.

Dame Helen Mirren, who read the bedtime story in London, said: “The turnout for The World's Big Sleep Out in Trafalgar Square and across the world tonight was a phenomenal success; it was heartwarming to see so many people come together to highlight the global issue of homelessness. I was proud to play my part by telling a bedtime story before sleeping out myself.  I hope the event has shone the political spotlight on this issue and I urge people to continue to support the campaign by visiting bigsleepout.com to donate.”

Actor Brian Cox, who opened the event in Edinburgh, said: “We can’t accept homelessness in our society, we will not accept it. We must give homeless and vulnerable people more than hope. We must give them a voice. Homelessness doesn’t have to be inevitable in our world. It’s not just something that happens and eradicating it isn’t impossible. The World’s Big Sleep Out started from a small sandwich shop on Rose Street in Edinburgh and now the dream of ending homelessness is being had around the world. Let’s prove that homelessness is not inevitable and that we can end it.”

Littlejohn, The World’s Big Sleep Out founder, said: “Having worked with homeless people for the last seven years, I know first-hand how invisible and forgotten people can feel. What the incredible 60,000 people who slept out all over the world have done tonight, is to shine the spotlight on this global issue and show that we care.

“I am truly blown away by the response to our campaign and sincerely grateful to every single person who has given up their beds tonight to raise the funds and awareness needed to make an impact. I hope that what happened in this campaign demonstrates a clear mandate for political action to tackle the homelessness crisis to whoever ends up in government in a few day’s time.”