On Saturday, 7 December, the world will unite to help fight homelessness with what is thought to be the largest charitable fundraising campaign in a generation. With an aim of raising $50million, The World’s Big Sleep Out, spearheaded by Josh Littlejohn MBE, founder of social enterprise Social Bite, will take place in up to 50 locations around the world.

Research by the Institute of Global Homelessness shows that figures have reached a new level with more than a 100 million people homeless and displaced around the world.  England alone has seen the number of people sleeping rough increase by more than 150 percent since 2010. Last year, an estimated 4,677 people were sleeping on the streets on any one night. And, shockingly, there are 125,000 children in England without a place to call home (MHCLG statistics, 2018-19)

Today, each of the city locations are confirmed along with a host of celebrities, musicians, Olympians, acting royalty, top broadcasters and influential politicians who will take part in sleep out events on the night, as part of an overall target number of 50,000 people, creating the world’s largest display of solidarity to those experiencing homelessness and displacement.

Will Smith and Dame Helen Mirren will lead the way by telling a bedtime story in Times Square (New York) and Trafalgar Square (London) respectively. On Saturday 7th Decemberpresenter and model Lisa Snowdon, six-time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy MBE, ITV News Presenter Julie Etchingham, singer Jamelia, author Giovanna Fletcher, Chief Fire Officer Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton and TV and radio presenters Kate Garraway, Cherry Healey, Angela Scanlon and Anita Rani will stand together and support.

There will also be stripped back, live acoustic music performances throughout the world with the line-up announced over the coming months.

The Board of The World’s Big Sleep Out Trust is chaired by world-renowned homelessness expert Dame Louise Casey DBE CB.

Cities and towns confirmed to be taking part include: London (Trafalgar Square and The Oval), New York (Times Square), Edinburgh, Dublin, Belfast, Chicago, Cardiff, Newcastle, Newport, Brighton, Manchester, Los Angeles, New Delhi, Vina Del Mar, Madrid, Rijeka, Kharkiv, Brisbane, Manila, Cebu, Amsterdam, Patna, Gaya, Muzaffarpur, Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Visakhapatnam, Guntur, Chennai, Coimbatore, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Philadelphia, San Jose (Costa Rica), Malibu and Singapore.

Depaul UK is one of the homelessness charities taking part in, and benefiting from, the World Big Sleep Out event in Trafalgar Square, London (see media briefing below).

People are urged to register for an official event or sign up to “Host Your Own” sleep out in their backyard, office car park, high school or university campus by visiting www.bigsleepout.com

Registration is now open with each participant committing to fundraising as much as they can. 100% of funds raised will go towards homelessness charities, with a 50/50 split between local and global charities helping homeless and displaced people.

It is hoped that an estimated 50,000 participants will collectively achieve a fundraising target of $50,000,000 which will be invested to sustainably help around 1,000,000 homeless and displaced people all over the world. As well as benefiting local charities, international partners for the campaign include UNICEF USA, Malala Fund and the Institute of Global Homelessness.

As well as private individuals, the campaign has been backed by some of the world’s largest companies and charitable foundations. So far, organisations supporting the campaign include Nasdaq, eBay, Weightwatchers, WPP, CYBG and Microsoft. Oak Foundation has also pledged $1million to the campaign.

This global event follows on from the success of Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park events in 2017 and 2018, which were held in Edinburgh, Dundee, Glasgow and Aberdeen. The mass fundraisers saw around 18,000 people give up their beds over the last two years, raising a total of almost £8 million. A new charity called The World’s Big Sleep Out Trust has been established to govern the funds raised from this global event, whilst funds raised in the USA will be managed by UNICEF USA with the support of Robin Hood Foundation.

Josh Littlejohn MBE, Social Bite and WBSO Founder, said: “I am blown away by the response to The World’s Big Sleep Out so far and incredibly excited to have 50 cities all over the world taking part. It doesn’t matter if you are taking part in Times Square or in your back garden with your family, by sleeping out for one night on 7 December we can simultaneously express our compassion for homeless people who have no other choice and raise lifesaving funds to make a difference. We can also send a message to the world’s political leaders that urgent action is required to address the human suffering that we each witness on our streets every day.”

Dame Helen Mirren said: “Homelessness on our streets is a real problem in the UK and for many nations throughout the world. This coupled with an unprecedented number of refugees being displaced internationally makes this a really important time to focus attention on the issue of global homelessness. The World’s Big Sleep Out campaign will play an important role in shining the political spotlight on the issues of homelessness and displacement whilst raising considerable funds to make a big difference.

“I am pleased to have this opportunity to make a contribution by performing a bedtime story for participants in London, which will also be screened at sleep out events happening throughout the world. I’d like to encourage anyone who cares about this issue to get involved by sleeping out, in solidarity with those who have no choice, on 7 December”.

Dame Louise Casey DBE CB, Chair of the World’s Big Sleep Out Trust said: “Homelessness is an urgent, deadly issue that affects people in all nations, but it is an issue that can be solved. The World’s Big Sleep Out is an act of compassion for our fellow citizens; a way to raise much-needed funds and a campaign for lasting change where everyone has a place to call home.”


  1. Social Bite
    Social Bite started as a sandwich shop on Rose Street in Edinburgh in August 2012 and has now grown to a major driving force in tackling homelessness in Scotland.One quarter of Social Bite’s staff are homeless and the charity has received visits from Hollywood superstars Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney.

    Social Bite’s 2017 and 2018 Sleep in Park events in Scotland raised almost £8million and saw more than 18,000 people sleeping out. Video from the events can be seen here.

    Social Bite is the largest distributor of free fresh food to the homeless in the UK, giving out more than 100,000 items of food and hot drinks per year.

    With funds raised from Sleep in the Park events, The Social Bite Village was built in May 2018 with 20 people now housed in the bespoke accommodation. The charity also launched a nationwide program to bring 830 rough sleepers of the streets into their own accommodation with support.www.social-bite.co.uk

    The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to put children first. UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization by providing health care and immunizations, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more.UNICEF USA supports UNICEF’s work through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. Together, it is working toward the day when no children die from preventable causes, and every child has a safe and healthy childhood.www.unicefusa.org
  3. The Institute of Global Homelessness
    The Institute of Global Homelessness (IGH) supports an emerging global movement to end street homelessness. Based in Chicago at DePaul University, IGH partners with key global cities to develop local leaders, set metrics, scale successes, and drive advocacy – all to accelerate progress in reducing and ending homelessness. IGH envisions a world where everyone has a place to call home – a home that offers security, safety, autonomy, and opportunity. Learn more about IGH’s work at www.ighomelessness.org
  4. Malala Fund
    Malala Fund is working for a world where all girls can learn and lead. Malala Fund advocates for resources and policy changes needed to give all girls a secondary education, invests in local education leaders and amplifies the voices of girls fighting for change. Learn more at malala.org.
  5. Media Briefing

    Why you should get involved in The World’s Big Sleep Out

    The World’s Big Sleep Out aims to raise $50million to help one million people experiencing homelessness and displacement around the world. This in itself will be a monumental achievement – one which I will be proud to be part of.
    The World’s Big Sleep Out has the potential to do so much more. I urge everyone who thinks it is unacceptable for any human being to be without a home to get involved. In years and decades to come, we could look back on 7 December 2019 as the day when the world decided to end homelessness. Everyone who cares about this problem can and should take part in the many different ways on offer.The best statistics available show that more than a billion people live in inadequate housing and more than 100 million people across the planet have no housing at all. Making sure that this vast number of people have a proper place to call home may seem daunting. However, my work for charities, governments and the Institute for Global Homelessness has shown me that we actually know how to solve homelessness. But we can only end it if enough of us come together to demand change. This moment on 7 December reinforces a year of advocacy, calling on the United Nations to expand its future endeavour to explicitly include homelessness and encourage all countries to accurately measure it.We need the public AND those in power to act – and act now! Please get involved.Dame Louise Casey, Chair of the Institute of Global Homelessness and Chair of The World’s Big Sleep Out Trust


    Why do we urgently need to take action to tackle homelessness in London?

    Almost 9,000 people per year are currently sleeping rough in London – and the number has more than doubled since 2010. In the 12 months to April this year, 8,855 people were seen sleeping rough in London, two-and-a-half times the number seen nine years ago.[i]

    Moreover, sleeping on the streets is extremely damaging to people’s mental and physical health. Rough sleeping kills: more than 100 people a year die on the streets of London.[ii] Fifty percent of the people sleeping rough in London need support for their mental health – up from 45 percent five years ago.[iii]

    Homelessness charities need the public’s help to reach out to the increasing number of people on the capital’s streets. Funding from The World’s Big Sleep Out will ensure that there are more safe, warm beds available for people who don’t have a roof over their heads. It will also enable charities to do more to prevent homelessness, so that people don’t end up sleeping rough or in another unsafe place.

    What about homelessness in the rest of the UK?

    The number of people who sleep rough on any one night in England has increased by more than 150 percent since 2010. In 2018, 4,677 people slept rough on any one night.[iv] There are 125,000 children in England without a home, living in temporary accommodation which is often cramped, of poor quality and far away from their school.[v]

    People in other parts of the UK are also facing life without a safe place to live. In the 12 months up to April 2019, 29,894 people were assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness in Scotland. Of these, 2,876 slept rough before asking local authorities for help, an increase of eight percent on the previous year. Children in Scotland are also growing up without a settled family home – 7,000 children in Scotland are in temporary accommodation.[vi]

    The number of people asking Welsh councils for support because they were threatened by homelessness increased by 18 percent in the year up to this April.[vii] Every year in Wales, an estimated 7,000 young people aged under 25 and 10,400 women ask for help with homelessness.

    Thousands of people ask councils in Northern Ireland for help with homelessness every year.[viii] In 2017-18, 18,180 households in Northern Ireland presented as homeless, equating to more than 50,000 individuals. Of this figure, 32 percent were families and 33 percent were single men.

    Which charities will receive funding from The World’s Big Sleep Out?

    Depaul UK provides emergency accommodation and works to prevent homelessness. Depaul’s Nightstop London service enables members of the public to become volunteer hosts, giving up their spare rooms for a few nights to accommodate young people with nowhere else to go. Depaul also delivers housing advice, supported housing, counselling and education work in schools.

    Last year, Depaul’s services supported more than 3,200 people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness. Of the people helped, 75 percent of those with health and wellbeing issues experienced positive change, 79 percent who needed help to look after themselves gained practical skills to live independently, and 83 percent saw positive change in their relationships: https://www.depaul.org.uk/

    Depaul UK CEO Mike Thiedke said: “Depaul is committed to ending homelessness, and in the UK we are working tirelessly to support young people with nowhere safe to sleep. By getting involved in The World’s Big Sleep Out, you will be helping us save young people from having to sleep rough or in another unsafe place. You will also be part of a unique, one-off worldwide event to help end homelessness globally.”

    Thames Reach is a charity based in London, supporting more than 8,800 people per year facing homelessness through prevention, intervention and recovery. It specialises in helping people with complex and multiple needs, including those associated with poor mental health and substance misuse.

    It manages a range of services including street outreach, frontline hostels, day services, specialist supported housing and employment and skills schemes. Thames Reach’s mission is to assist homeless and vulnerable men and women to find decent homes, build supportive relationships and lead fulfilling lives: thamesreach.org.uk.

    Bill Tidnam, Thames Reach Chief Executive, said: “It’s right that people are concerned about homelessness and the dreadful and lasting impact that it has on people’s lives. The World’s Big Sleep Out is an opportunity to come together to raise money that will help individuals affected by homelessness, and also to show our Government and governments across the world that this is a crisis that we need to work together to solve.”

    The Connection at St Martin’s helps 2,600 people every year to recover from the trauma of homelessness, by tackling the underlying causes of homelessness as well as offering practical help. Located in the heart of central London, the charity works around the clock to provide long-term support leading to housing, work and independence.

    The Connection works with its clients rather than for them, empowering them to develop their strengths and ability to change their own future. It also offers hot meals and showers, access to medical appointments and somewhere warm and safe to sleep in our Emergency Accommodation: https://www.connection-at-stmartins.org.uk/

    Pam Orchard, Chief Executive of The Connection at St Martin’s, said: “No matter where in the country you live, you can’t have failed to notice the increase in rough sleepers in recent years – and nowhere is it more obvious than central London. The Connection helps thousands of people every year move away from, and stay off, the streets of London.

    Homelessness is a complicated issue and we all have a part to play in tackling it. This is why we are so pleased to join The World’s Big Sleep Out.”

    Homeless Link is the national membership charity for services working directly with people experiencing homelessness and those at risk of homelessness with housing, health, care and support needs. Homeless Link supports more than 700 services and organisations in England on the frontline of homelessness. It works to improve services through research, guidance and learning, and to promote policy change that will ensure everyone has a place to call home and the support they need to keep it: https://www.homeless.org.uk/

    Homeless Link Chief Executive Rick Henderson said: “No one should have to sleep rough or be without a place to call home. We are committed to driving social change to end homelessness for good, and to supporting our members on the frontline. The World’s Big Sleep Out provides a chance to shine a spotlight on the severity of the homelessness situation and raise vital funds to improve the lives of some of society’s most vulnerable people.”

    The Institute of Global Homelessness (IGH) leads a global movement to end street homelessness. It works for a world where everyone has a place to call home – a home that offers security, safety, autonomy and opportunity. IGH partners with practitioners and policy makers in key cities to develop local leaders, set metrics, scale success and drive advocacy. All of its programs are designed to accelerate progress in reducing and ending homelessness. Learn more about our work at: www.ighomelessness.org

    [i] https://data.london.gov.uk/dataset/chain-reports


    [iii] https://data.london.gov.uk/dataset/chain-reports


    [v] https://www.gov.scot/publications/homelessness-scotland-2018-2019/pages/3/ https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/808318/TemporaryAccommodation1.xlsx

    [vi] https://www.gov.scot/publications/homelessness-scotland-2018-2019/pages/3/

    [vii] https://gov.wales/homelessness-april-2018-march-2019

    [viii] https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/publications/northern-ireland-housing-bulletin-january-march-2019