When Social Bite founder Josh Littlejohn asked me to take part in a CEO sleep out, my first thought was that, if Josh is involved, it must be for a seriously worthwhile cause. And it is.
Led by Josh, Social Bite plan to extend their support of the homeless community to an amazing degree. They’re building a village in Edinburgh:
to create a safe and supportive living environment for up to 20 people to live in for around 12 - 15 months … residents will receive everything they need including counselling, money management guidance, cooking lessons, exercise and therapy. After 12-15 months we will help transition the residents into permanent accommodation and provide employment in Social Bite’s broader business and our partners, supporting their journey back into society where they belong.
And each year, they’ll do it again, welcoming 20 new residents and supporting them out of homelessness. I’m not even sure I can adequately describe how humbled I feel by the good Social Bite are doing in the world, but it really speaks to me, and the purpose of Insights, which is that we aim to create a world … “where people are inspired to make a positive difference in everything they do.” Josh’s vision is “to eradicate homelessness in Scotland.” Together, there is every chance that we can do just that.
So, there I was, hopefully making a big difference by doing a small thing. After all, what’s one night sleeping out in the open, when there are almost 30,000 people across Scotland who have no other option, every single night?
So 300 CEOs and business leaders gathered in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, for the night, each one of us supported by our teams to raise funds for the Social Bite project. We laughed, told stories, sang, shared visions and dreams. The sense of community and commitment was palpable. Afzal and Akmal Khushi of Trespass, the outdoor clothing business run by Afzal, had sponsored £40,000 worth of sleeping bags and mats, just one of the very generous sponsors who made this possible.
When it was time for bed, some avoided that horrible thought, and continued to chat instead as the drizzle began. I tried to snuggle into my sleeping bag, on wet, hard ground, at around 12.:30. At 2:30, I had still been unable to sleep. The background noise of a city at night is incredible - the constant rumble of traffic, revellers making their way home, the odd siren, bin lorries and the patter of the drizzle ... I dozed into some kind of light slumber, dreaming of the bacon roll to come, served by our First Minster, in a few short hours. But it’s hard to sleep in those conditions – and the ones we experienced were only a small taste of what homelessness is really like.
Imagine that struggle night after night, without the comforting knowedge that it’s really just a simulation for a few hours. I did - I realised that my overnight sleepout was really no hardship. But I also understand now why sleeping rough on a long-term basis can shorten life expectancy by 30 years. As Nicola Sturgeon handed out the bacon rolls and coffee at 7am I was in a reflective state of mind. Grateful for the many blessings I have in my life, and with just a little insight into the plight of others less fortunate than me.
We can change our society. All it will take is a little commitment and a lot of hard work - and that’s easier when we commit to work together. So, let’s do it. Insights has committed £30,000 to pay for one of the Social Bite Village houses. That’s been possible through the hard work of all of the people in our wonderful organisation. Thank you for making it possible.
You know what they say about the butterfly effect, that even the smallest of actions can result in a huge impact? Well, I hope that with our small efforts, we’ve started something that will help to revolutionise the support that those who are without a home this Christmas receive. If you’re as humbled and moved by the Social Bite Village as I am, please consider sending them a donation to get the project underway.
Thanks for reading this, have a wonderful holiday season, and let’s all work together make a positive difference in 2017.