Dame Helen Mirren and Will Smith back global charity sleep-out

Dame Helen Mirren and Hollywood star Will Smith will read bedtime stories at a global sleep-out to support homeless and displaced people.

The World’s Big Sleep Out aims to see around 50,000 people spending the night outside in their respective cities on December 7 to raise awareness of the issue.

It follows on from the charity Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park events in Scotland in 2017 and 2018 which raised almost £8 million and saw around 18,000 people take part.

Cities taking part in The World’s Big Sleep Out include London, New York, Edinburgh, Chicago, New Delhi, Newcastle, Dublin, Belfast, Madrid, Barcelona, Brussels, Cardiff and Santiago.

BFI and Radio Times Television Festival
Dame Helen Mirren will read a bedtime story at the event in London (Isabel Infantes/PA)

It is hoped the initiative will raise more than £38.4 million. which will be distributed to a range of homelessness and refugee focused charities around the world.

Smith will read a bedtime story in New York’s Times Square while Dame Helen will do the same in Trafalgar Square, London.

She 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 whist 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 December 7.”

Sleep in the Park
Sleep in the Park events including this one in Edinburgh have raised nearly £8 million (David Cheskin/PA)

Social Bite co-founder Josh Littlejohn is working in partnership with the Malala Fund, Unicef USA and the Institute for Global Homelessness to organise the initiative.

Mr Littlejohn said: “For one night, in backyards, hometowns and iconic locations across the globe, we will sleep out in unison to create the world’s largest display of solidarity with those experiencing homelessness and displacement.

“I would like to encourage people from all walks of life to join the movement, sleep out and raise funds to support those that have no other choice.

“This is a call to city governments, business leaders, students, school children, religious groups and people from all over the world.

“Whether you sleep out in your backyard or Times Square New York, together we can raise a target of 50,000,000 US dollars (£38.4 million) to tackle homelessness and displacement, whilst sending a message to the world’s political leaders to ensure that everyone has a safe place to call home.”

Social Bite started as a sandwich shop in Edinburgh in August 2012 and has grown to have five shops in Scotland.

A quarter of its staff are homeless and the charity has received visits from Hollywood stars Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney.

Education campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, a co-founder of the Malala Fund, said: “Educated girls have the power to transform our world. But without a home or access to education, millions of refugee and displaced girls are unable to fulfil their potential.

“I am excited to partner with Social Bite and have their support for Malala Fund’s work to help refugee girls get back into school.”

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