The World’s Big Sleep Out: the mission to end homelessness

On the 7th of December 2019, thousands of people around the world slept outdoors to show support for those experiencing homelessness and raise both awareness and funds to tackle the issue. The United Nations Human Settlements Program estimates that 1.1 billion people live in inadequate housing, with more than 100 million of those having no housing at all.

Doors opened at 5:30pm with performances from Be Charlotte, Angie McMahon and Izzy Bizu and a bedtime story from Gregor Fisher. At 11pm we proceeded to wrap ourselves up in several layers and a sleeping bag. Edinburgh is rainy, cold and wet especially in the winter and this night was no different. The wind howled all night, and heavy rain filled our sleeping bags. We were lucky enough to be provided with hot water, toilets and waterproof survival kits. The night still proved to be an extremely difficult one. We camped out until 6am before heading home in soaking wet clothes. We were surrounded by hundreds of people doing the same as us, whilst the night was uncomfortable, we gained a source a solace knowing we were not alone in this mission. We were also comforted in knowing this was temporary, at dawn we could return to our warm homes to a bed, heating and food. Those sleeping rough around Edinburgh do not share the same comfort. They’re met with Scotland’s unpredictable weather every night of the year and met with apprehension from those passing by.

The sleep out was a display of solidarity – in spending a night outdoors, we managed to catch a glimpse of the reality that homeless people face every day. Over 50,000 of us slept out for one night. This campaign was started by the charity Social Bite which began as a small sandwich shop in Edinburgh offering food and employment to homeless people. Social Bite has now grown into an extremely successful charity advocating an end to homelessness. In listening to various people’s testimonies including the CEO of Social Bite Edinburgh, Jane Bruce we learnt of the importance in first and foremost providing housing for homeless people. That is why Social Bite have undertaken the ‘Housing First’ project which provides housing for those sleeping rough.

We listened to a few testimonies from those who have previously been homeless and are no longer so due the help of Social Bite. They told us of the dehumanising nature of being made homeless, and how even a smile from someone passing by can make an enormous difference. It may be difficult to feel you can help every homeless person you pass on the street, but a smile or even a conversation is a simple act that goes a long way.

The University of Edinburgh team have currently raised £17,512 leading as the top team fundraisers in Edinburgh. If you haven’t already donated, you have until Christmas eve to do so. The Worlds Big Sleep Out takes place every year in the winter months, in various cities across the globe. If you didn’t manage to participate this year, I urge you to next year.


Image: Garry Knight via Flickr

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