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PHOTOS: Edinburgh Park Sleepout Raises Homeless Awareness

PHOTOS: Edinburgh Park Sleepout Raises Homeless Awareness

Over 8,000 participants descended upon Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens in frigid temperatures to participate in "the world's biggest sleepout" event to raise money for homeless awareness.

Thousands staked a spot on the park grounds Saturday night at a temperature of 19F and were challenged by what many people who are without shelter in Scotland experience on a daily basis.

Among those in attendance included political figures and celebrities, including Liam Gallagher, Deacon Blue, Frightened Rabbit, Rob Brydon, and Amy Macdonald.

They were joined by John Cleese and Sir Bob Geldof, who've both shared memories of a difficult time in their lives.

Geldof, an Irish singer/songwriter, and political activist, told Sky News:

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.

Actor John Cleese regaled the shivering crowd with a bedtime story.

Performances from artists like Liam Gallagher helped boost awareness for the event, but the people who made their way out into the cold were there for the cause. "This concept of sleeping in the cold is such a daunting thing in people's mind that it trumps Liam Gallagher and it trumps anyone else, but it just helps lend that level of excitement and gets people engaged in the issue, so we're really grateful for everyone that's turned out to support," said the event's coordinator, Josh Littlejohn.

Littlejohn is the co-founder of Social Bite, a cafe run by those who were once displaced where customers can pay for hot drinks or food for the homeless. He was humbled to know over 8,000 people from the "small country" showed their support at the one-night event.

"That's going to translate to somewhere in the region of between £3m and £4m that's going to be raised. It's an absolutely incredible result."

Even Scotland's Deputy First Minister John Swinney, Communities Secretary Angela Constance, and Housing Minister Kevin Stewart also braved the chilling temperature and camped out in the epic sleepout.

Recent welfare cuts increased the "rough sleeper" population, and Littlejohn's goal is to make this demographic "impossible to ignore" to tackle the epidemic.

"The figures for core homelessness – rough sleepers, those in bed-and-breakfast accommodation, hostels or sofa surfing – are not insurmountable,” Littlejohn said. “The total number of homeless households across Scotland is 11,000. It shouldn’t be beyond our combined wit.”

We know that the proven single most effective homelessness intervention ever is ‘housing first’, which basically means rather than making homeless people live through years of expensive temporary accommodation and rough sleeping, we provide access to a mainstream tenancy straight away and invest in a well-resourced support structure to support them in that tenancy. That’s the core change we are pressing for.

The impact of the sleepout was felt across the globe.

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H/T - twitter, skynews, theguardian