Olympian cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy and some of Scotland’s most wealthy and influential people have begun a night under the stars to raise money for a new village for the homeless.
Social Bite plans to provide a low-cost, supervised and safe living environment for up to 20 homeless people with 10 purpose-built homes in Granton, Edinburgh, and needs to raise £500,000 for the project.
As part of a fund-raising drive, about 300 of the most influential people in Scotland took to Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square to sleep rough on Thursday night.
Participants began arriving at around 7pm where they will stay until 7am on Friday when they will be served breakfast by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Crowds appeared to be in high spirits with temperatures expected to be between 7C (44F) to 8C (46F) overnight - unseasonably mild for a Scottish winter.
Speaking on stage about why he got involved in tonight’s proceedings, Sir Chris Hoy said: “Its simple really, It’s just such a fantastic cause and to see the impact that it is having, it is such a simple to do from my perspective.
“It’s such a great cause and ambition to create this village and if we can raise enough funds tonight and raise enough awareness we are doing something special.
“It’s great to be on board and it’s not as cold as I thought it was going to be - I was quite warm - a bit sweaty earlier on, but ask me again at 4am and see if I’m still smiling then.”
One participant who isn’t so dis-familiar with sleeping outdoors is DF Concerts director, Geoff Ellis, organiser of T in the Park, Scotland’s biggest music festival which is currently on hiatus.
Mr Ellis said: “It’s better weather than we have had at T in the Park for the last few years but I’m starting to feel the chill already.
“It’s not July , it’s December and I’ve got five layers on but if people are sleeping rough they have got to endure conditions much worse than tonight. I think we are getting off quite lightly.”
Around £40,000 worth of camping equipment donated by Tresspass was given to participants upon entering the site which included a ground sheet, sleeping bag and a survival bag. After the event all equipment will be donated to homeless people in Scotland.
Work is expected to begin on the village early next year, with the first residents moving in by the summer.
It will be run by Social Bite with the EDI Group and the City of Edinburgh Council.
Social Bite co-founder Josh Littlejohn said: “We have actually managed to get 300 top people sleeping out for us tonight to raise money for a project to build a village for homeless people in Edinburgh to really break that cycle of homelessness.
“Sir Chris Hoy said he would come and do it very early doors so as soon as he said yes I knew we would hopefully get lots more and now we’re up to 300 so it’s really phenomenal.
“It will definitely be an eye opener for these people to sleep out for one night and do in Scotland what an average 600 people do every single night sleeping rough.
“I think it will be educational but the main thing is that we’re going to raise a lot of money to create a real long term solution to this issue of homelessness.”
Social Bite cafes allows customers to ‘’pay forward’’ meals for the homeless and around a quarter of its staff are formerly homeless.
Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio stopped for lunch at Social Bite venture Home in Edinburgh’s west end last month and his visit followed that of Hollywood star George Clooney to Social Bite’s Rose Street branch in the city a year earlier.