In an effort to help combat homelessness 60,000 people around the world participated in sleepouts organized in cities throughout the world as part of The World’s Big Sleep Out.
The World’s Big Sleep Out Founder Josh Littlejohn along with Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director David Giffen, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, New York City Public Advocate Jumanne Williams, President and CEO of UNICEF USA Caryl M. Stern, Founder & Executive Director, Ali Forney Center Carl Siciliano, Mitchell Modell CEO of Modell’s Sporting Goods,President & CEO WW (Formerly Weight Watchers) Mindy Grossman, Brenda Rosen President & CEO Breaking Ground, joined together to lead the sleep out in New York City’s Times Square on December 7th. Academy Award-nominated actor and rapper Will Smith also made a special guest appearance.
“We’ve been working on this for about a year, and we had an aspiration to try and stage events in 52 cities all over the world and tonight that’s happening including here in New York. So it’s a great thrill and a great honor to be here in New York as part of this campaign.” Littlejohn told The Knockturnal about planning the worldwide sleepouts. Littlejohn told The Knockturnal about bringing Will Smith on board to read a bedtime story saying, “It’s an incredible honor for us, we’ve got Will Smith coming he’s telling the participants here a bedtime story before they sleep out for the night. We reached out to him and we were told he’s thrilled he decided to come and give up his time to do this. We’ve got Dame Helen Mirren is doing the same thing in London. We’ve got lots of music performances throughout the night so there’s a bit of a show element but ultimately about 10 o clock everyone is gonna be getting into their sleeping bags and bracing the experience for the night to raise awareness and money to tackle the issue.”
Some of the musical performers who graced the stage included: soul duo The War and Treaty, The Rock of Age’s Jeanette Bayardelle, and Jay Buchanan, lead singer of the multi-Grammy nominated group Rival Sons who sang “Shooting Stars.” The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Correspondent, Dulcé Sloan served as on-stage host introducing the musical acts.
Smith who was introduced by Josh Littlejohn shared with the crowd about how starring in The Pursuit of Happyness in which he portrayed Chris Gardner who was once homeless, was eye-opening experience that connected him with the issue. Before leaving the stage Smith surprised the crowd by rapping the theme song from his classic hit sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
The Knockturnal spoke to David Giffen who is the Executive Director Coalition for the Homeless about what more needs to be done to combat issue of homelessness which he said, “Well we can build more affordable permanent housing, that is really the only real solution to homelessness. We’ve known that for a long time but our elected leaders have chosen not to take that course. It’s a political issue. But now that we have a political campaign season starting here in the US, what we need to do is elevate this topic to make the candidates talk about this as a priority for our country.” We also spoke with Josh Littlejohn about what more can be done he said, “I think we have to come together as a society. I think these people are the most vulnerable among us in society. I think we have to demand our politicians wherever we are in the world take action on it. We need to show a sense of compassion and understanding [for] people in that circumstance. We need to collaborate as a society to try and reach out and give people a hand up.”
“Having worked with homeless people for the last seven years, I know how invisible and forgotten people can feel. What the incredible 60,000 people who slept out all over the world have done tonight is to shine the spotlight on this global issue and show that we care,” said Littlejohn. “I am truly blown away by the response to our campaign, in NYC and all over the world, and am sincerely grateful to every single person who has given up their beds tonight to raise the funds and awareness needed to make an impact. I hope that what happened in this campaign demonstrates a clear mandate for political action to tackle the homelessness crisis in NYC and all over the planet.”
Modell’s Sporting Goods provided sleeping bags to the sleepout participants. The global World’s Big Sleep Out initiative has raised a cumulative total of over $10 Million with 100% of the funds raised from NYC going towards the initiative’s national partner, UNICEF USA, as well as local NY charity beneficiaries including Robin Hood, Breaking Ground, The Ali Forney Center, and The Coalition for the Homeless.Other cities and towns that took part in the global initiative include: London (Trafalgar Square), Chicago, New Delhi, Edinburgh, Dublin, Belfast, Vina Del Mar, Madrid, Rijeka, Kharkiv, Brisbane, Manila, Cebu, Amsterdam, Patna, Gaya, Muzaffarpur, Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Visakhapatnam, Guntur, Chennai, Coimbatore, Mumbai, Hong Kong, San Jose (Costa Rica), Malibu, Cardiff, Newcastle, Newport, Brighton, Manchester, Singapore.
The World’s Big Sleep Out has also partnered with Red Nose Day and Walgreens to launch a holiday program for children in need. From now through December 24, Walgreens shoppers in California and New York City will have the opportunity to make a donation to Red Nose Day at the register. 100% of funds received through Walgreens will be donated to the Red Nose Day fund who – in partnership with The World’s Big Sleepout – funding meals and gifts for homeless children and families this holiday season.