On Saturday 7 December, thousands of people across the globe will join The World's Big Sleep Out to create the world’s largest display of solidarity with, and in support of, those experiencing homelessness and displacement. Richard Houston, CEO, Deloitte UK and North South Europe, shares what inspired him to join the sleep out.
Sometimes when you meet someone they inspire you to act.
And so it was with Josh Littlejohn, founder of the incredible global campaign to end homelessness: The World’s Big Sleep Out.
I first met Josh in September and heard his story of setting up a cafe called Social Bite in Edinburgh with his friend Alice Thompson. They donated all of their profits to social causes and offered jobs and free food to people affected by homelessness. From modest beginnings, Social Bite now has a chain of social enterprise shops in Scotland and a Social Bite Village that provides shelter and support for homeless people. Josh and Alice advise the Scottish Government on housing policies and their first ‘sleep out’ with 300 people in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens is now a global movement.
I was blown away by Josh’s absolute determination and passion that saw him turn one small cafe into a worldwide campaign to end homelessness. He inspired me to get involved.
So I signed up then and there to take part in the World’s Big Sleep Out. This weekend my wife and I will be spending the night in Trafalgar Square joining more than 60 Deloitte colleagues and another 50,000 people sleeping out in cities across the world. The aim is to raise £40 million for the estimated 100m homeless and displaced people worldwide. The funds will help people who have lost their homes due to war, natural disasters and poverty, as well as being directed to local homelessness charities. Depaul, Thames Reach, The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields, The Big Issue Foundation and Homeless Link will receive 50% of funds raised from the London sleep out.
While I will admit I’m slightly nervous about the sleep out, I know it’s just one night. I’ll have the luxury of a sleeping bag, a full stomach, the comfort and safety of having hundreds of other people around me, and the knowledge that I’ll go home in the morning. For homeless people on the streets there is a daily cycle of cold, hunger, fear, loneliness and the ever present risk of violence.
Spending a night on the concrete is one small action. But the small actions of 50,000 people and the thousands more supporting them can help charities make a real difference and amplify the call for action to end homelessness.
Over 80 members of the Deloitte team are sleeping out in London, Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh in support of One Million Futures charity and social enterprise partners helping to end homelessness.