VIDEO: Thousands brave the Dundee cold for Sleep in the Park homelessness event

Thousands of hardy souls slept under the open sky in Tayside’s freezing winter conditions to raise money for homeless people across Scotland.

Organised by charity Social Bite, the Sleep In The Park event at Slessor Gardens in Dundee featured musical performances by Kyle Falconer, KT Tunstall and Amy Mcdonald on Saturday night.

© DC Thomson
Sleep in the Park, Dundee.

More than 12,000 people took part in similar events across the country, including in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh, raising £3.2million so far.

After performing at the event, Kyle Falconer, from Dundee, said:  “I was cold at the start of the gig so I take my hat off to everyone who’s sleeping out there.

© DC Thomson
Amy Macdonald performs at Sleep in the Park.

“Growing up in Dundee, homelessness was all around, you saw it every day.

© DC Thomson
The Sleep In The Park event at Slessor Gardens

“I love playing music so this is an easy thing for me to do but I hope it helps make a difference.

“It’s great that everyone’s coming together. We need to get the whole population on the same level.”

© DC Thomson
Sleep in the Park, Dundee.

Temperatures in the city plunged to 4C, with frost on the ground, but the participants were spared any rain during the night.

Josh Littlejohn, Social Bite co-founder, said: “It’s been a big effort to get all four cities going and I’m delighted so many people have turned out.

“Amy and KT have been dashing all over Scotland to play at every venue. So far we’ve raised £3.2 million and fund raising doesn’t stop until Christmas Eve.

© DC Thomson
KT Tunstall performs, Sleep in the Park, Slessor Gardens, Dundee.

“All of that money will go towards 830 flats across Scotland – 100 in Dundee – and wrap around support for people.”

Sleep in the Park: Hundreds tackle homelessness by camping out in Dundee city centre

Executive chairman of DC Thomson Media, Ellis Watson, read a bedtime story at the Dundee event.

© DC Thomson
Ellis Watson reads the bedtime story at Sleep in the Park.

Members of the public had to raise a minimum of £100 to spend the night in Slessor Gardens with only sleeping bags and mats for comfort.

Dundee City Council leader John Alexander said: “I did it in Edinburgh last year and it’s a sobering reminder of what homeless people have to go through.

“I found it difficult and I’ve got the best jacket and sleeping bag.

“My previous role was convenor of housing in Dundee so I’m really passionate about ending homelessness. I think with a big effort we can end rough sleeping in the city.”

The money raised will go towards an innovative project called Housing First, which will be trialled in Dundee, starting this month.

Rather than keeping people with complex needs in temporary housing until they are ready for a tenancy, they will be given a permanent home straight away, with ongoing support as part of the scheme.

The initiative will be rolled out across Scotland’s major cities, aiming to take on increasing numbers of service users as it develops.

St Andrews-born KT Tunstall told the crowd in Dundee: “We see it every day – people who haven’t had the opportunity they hoped they’d have, and they’ve ended up in a really difficult situation.

“One thing I always hear is that homeless people feel like people can’t see them.

“It’s fantastic that we’re showing solidarity tonight and we do see them, and we do want to help. Thank you for being involved.”

I’m so proud to be part of Social Bite tonight.”

Joe Fitzpatrick, MSP for Dundee City West, also took part in the sleep-out.

He said: “Last week I launched the Scottish Government’s drug and alcohol strategy.

“A big part of tackling those issues is making sure people have a home to go to.

“Particularly in Scotland with our longer, colder winters we need to make eliminating homelessness a priority.”


Comment: Jack McKeown – Courier features writer

© DC Thomson
Jack McKeown ready for bed at Sleep in the Park.

Socks. They’re the least donated but most needed item of clothing at homeless shelters.

I contemplated this nugget of information as my feet grew numb after hours standing around at the Dundee sleep out. You can’t be in a sleeping bag all evening and unless you walk around constantly your extremities get cold.

Around 11pm we all unfurled our groundmats, got into our sleeping bags and cosied down.

With all my layers on, a down sleeping bag, Thermarest ground mat and a plastic survival bag to keep moisture off, I was finally toasty and soon drifted off to sleep.

I woke up chilled and needing the toilet at 3am. Somehow I’d rolled off the sleeping mat and could feel the cold ground leaching away my heat. The survival bag had slipped down and the top half of my sleeping bag was damp with dew.

One wee and five minutes of rearranging gear later and I was a bit warmer but I never managed to replicate the snug burrow I’d started with.

We had good quality equipment, plentiful hot drinks, toilets and – most importantly – the companionship of hundreds of people around us.

I can only imagine how cold and lonely it must be in a second rate sleeping bag, down an alley or huddled in a doorway, and all alone.

It is barely imaginable that that is the lot of people in modern Britain.