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People in orange plastic sleeping bags lie out in Trafalgar Square ;

Students and staff take part in 'World's Big Sleep Out'

13 December 2019

On Saturday 7th December, students and staff from King’s took part in the World’s Big Sleep Out – the largest display of solidarity with the millions of people experiencing homelessness and displacement around the world.

King's team were some of the nearly 60,000 people who took part in 52 cities around the world, including London, braving cold temperatures and heavy rain as they camped out in Trafalgar Square, alongside almost 2,000 people.


Being sensitive and offering our help, is of utter importance, even if that help is chatting about someone’s day in the street. – Ioannis Valasakis, Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences PhD

The one-off event was a moment of global solidarity, helping to raise awareness of the difficulties those affected by homelessness and displacement face on a daily basis.

PhD student Ioannis Valaskis reflected on his awareness, saying: "Sleeping a night out ‘rough’ (but with much more provided care than any homeless people), makes you appreciate both your life and home situation. It also blossoms compassion and understanding. Being sensitive and offering our help, is of utter importance, even if that help is chatting about someone’s day in the street."

King's participants sleep out near a fountain in Trafalgar Square

Above: members of the King's team sleep out in their 'bivvy' survival bags

Homelessness in the UK

According to research carried out by Homeless Link, the number of people sleeping rough has been rising nationally. There are currently at least 320,000 homeless people in the UK, and rough sleeping in the UK has increased for the seventh consecutive year. Since 2010, there have been particularly sharp increases in London and South East England.

A report by Shelter recently revealed that 135,000 children are currently homeless in the UK and living in temporary accommodation, the highest number in 12 years. This report found that every eight minutes, a child loses their home.

I wanted to take part in the World’s Big Sleep Out because I often think about how desperately sad it is that people do not have homes and live on the streets. I wanted to help raise money and awareness for these people and the charities that support them. I was lucky to take part with colleagues but the reality for those who are homeless is that it is such an isolating experience and can be very dangerous.– Helena Carter, Student Residences Manager, Champion Hill
Aerial shot of Trafalgar Square with Nelson's column, the christmas tree and orange participant sleeping bags

The Big Sleep Out

Dame Louise Casey DBE CB, Visiting Professor at the Policy Institute and Chair of the World’s Big Sleep Out, thanked the thousands of people gathered in Trafalgar Square for taking part and putting the homeless crisis at the centre of the political spotlight while also raising life-saving funds for those in need.

Alongside raising money, Trafalgar Square attendees were joined by a variety of musical acts, including the band Travis, throughout the evening. Dame Helen Mirren also read participants a bedtime story, mirrored by Will Smith at the New York Sleep Out.


Dame Helen Mirren reads from a book on stage

Vital fundraising

Around half the funds raised through the World’s Big Sleep Out are going to charities helping the 70.1 million people  displaced by war, natural disasters or extreme poverty around the world.

The other half is earmarked for charities that help people suffering from homelessness in each host city. The official charity partners of the London Big Sleep Out are:

The King’s team collectively raised over £1,600 for the charities that support those affected by homelessness and displacement. You can find out more about the team's fundraising here.

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