Thousands of people have taken part in a mass sleepout across four Scottish cities in one night in order to give a voice to the voiceless and raise funds for the homeless.
The Sleep in the Park event, arranged by social enterprise Social Bite, took place last weekend in Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh and has so far raised £3.2 million in sponsorship and donations. The cash will go towards tackling homelessness through housing projects and employment programmes, and supporting those on the streets with shelters and hot food and drink.
Members of the public had to raise a minimum £100 to spend the night in a city park with only sleeping bags and mats for comfort, while celebrities helped to entertain the crowds who had braved rain, wind and temperatures of just 2C.
KT Tunstall and Amy Macdonald performed a whirlwind four gigs over the evening at all four locations.
During the evening, Tunstall thanked the 10,000 fundraisers taking part in the sleepout for showing solidarity with homeless people and helping collect £3.2 million.
“We see it every day – people who haven’t had the opportunity they hoped they’d have, and they’ve ended up in a really difficult situation,” Tunstall told the crowd in Dundee’s Slessor Gardens.
“One thing I always hear is that homeless people feel like people can’t see them.
“It’s fantastic that we’re showing solidarity tonight and we do see them, and we do want to help. Thank you for being involved. I’m so proud to be part of Social Bite tonight.”
Meanwhile, Macdonald told the crowd in Dundee: “It’s a privilege to be here and be a small part of this. It’s such a worthy cause and it’s so amazing that you guys are doing this.”
Comedian Fred MacAulay hosted the Edinburgh event, which included a performance by Lulu and a bedtime story from Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh in West Princes Street Gardens.
Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park saw the first performance of Frightened Rabbit since the death of lead singer Scott Hutchison, and a surprise appearance by Biffy Clyro.
Grant Hutchison from Frightened Rabbit said: “Social Bite has encouraged Scotland to consider homelessness as something that can be eradicated completely from the country.
“For us to be a part of such an ambitious movement is a honour. The links between mental health and homelessness are undeniable and for Frightened Rabbit to be able to highlight both problems by playing our songs is a great opportunity.”
Social Bite said its ongoing work had resulted in 830 houses being pledged to a nationwide Housing First programme to enable rough sleepers to get their own long-term tenancies with “wrap-around” support.
A total of £3 million of the cash raised from the 2018 sleepout will go towards the cost of the support, combined with £6.5 million pledged by the Scottish Government.
Social Bite co-founder Josh Littlejohn said: “This is a night that we collectively gave a voice to the people who have never had one – and the event will have the very direct impact of helping 830 people off the streets in Scotland.
“Scotland is a small enough country, a compassionate enough country and a collaborative enough country, where nobody has to be homeless.
“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.”
Picture: Social Bite staff members helping to raise money for the Social Bite ‘Sleep in the Park’ in Princes St Gardens, Edinburgh. (Stewart Attwood/PA).