Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Social Bite 'sleep out' to help 600 homeless people

Sleep in the Park
Image caption More than 8,000 people took part in the Sleep in the Park event in Edinburgh in December

Money raised from an event that saw 8,000 people "sleep rough" in sub-zero temperatures in Edinburgh is to help homeless people move into new houses.

Organisers Social Bite, the not-for-profit sandwich business, will take £3m from December's Sleep in the Park event to support 600 people over the next 18 months.

Councils and housing associations in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee have made properties available for the scheme.

The first will be ready in the Spring.

The scheme follows a "Homes First" approach and involves vulnerable homeless people being provided with secure homes and then giving them the support to sustain their tenancies and help them reintegrate back into society.

'Ambitious scale'

Social Bite, which has been backed by Hollywood superstars George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio, will invest £1.5m to fund support costs over the first 12 months.

It then plans to invest a further £1.5m over the following 12 months, alongside other funders.

Josh Littlejohn, co-founder of Social Bite, said: "Our plan is to start placing people that are currently sleeping rough and in hostels or other temporary accommodation into this mainstream housing this Spring.

"We will now seek to work alongside other funders and the Scottish government to ensure that the ambitious scale of this Housing First programme can be realised and that it can help lead to a significant structural change in how homelessness is dealt with in Scotland.

"All involved believe that this can be a major step in dealing with the homelessness issue here."

Image copyright Stewart Attwood
Image caption Fundraisers braved sub-zero temperatures in Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens in December

The City of Edinburgh Council has offered 500 properties, with other homes being made available through EdIndex housing associations as well as others from the Wheatley Group in Glasgow and the central belt.

Dundee City Council, with partner housing associations, has pledged 100 homes over the 18 months of the programme.

The first homes will become available in Spring with about 33 properties being released each month until September 2019.

'Escape the dangers'

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "Tackling homelessness is a key priority for the Scottish government.

"That is why we have set up the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, which includes Social Bite, to recommend the action needed to tackle the issue, backed by £50m to drive change.

"That includes development of the Housing First model, which has shown great results so far.

"The work of Social Bite has an important part to play in meeting our shared commitment to ensure vulnerable people can escape the dangers and uncertainties of homelessness, ensuring they have a warm and safe place to call home."

Social Bite runs a chain of social enterprise cafes and distributes 100,000 items of food and hot drinks to homeless people across Scotland each year.

It also employs staff who have experienced homelessness themselves.

The enterprise has drawn support from several high-profile figures, with Hollywood stars Leonardo diCaprio and George Clooney, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and the Duchess of Rothesay among those who have visited its Edinburgh premises.

The cold, hard truth

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Media captionOrganisers say Sleep in the Park was about more than raising money

The Sleep in the Park event in December raised about £4m. Paddy Baxter was one of those who took part in the event.

He told BBC Radio Scotland at the time: "I think I wore everything I owned... I had a pair of sports socks, hiking socks, hiking boots, then I had running tights, long-johns, trousers.

"I've got an Under Armour top, a T-shirt, a jumper, a thermal jumper, a woolly jumper that my mum knitted for me, and a jacket - a ski jacket - so even with all that, I was still cold."

Journalist Paul English, who also spent the night in Princes Street Gardens, said it gave him an insight into homelessness.

"I'm not saying for a second that one night sleeping in a park in Edinburgh makes you an expert on what people who are unfortunate enough to live in these conditions are going through," he said.

"But there is a certain amount of understanding and empathy that does come from having had that experience last night that even I didn't - and many others like me - appreciate.

"People that I've spoken to on waking up this morning, they had an insight into something that last night when they bedded down, they didn't actually have."

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