Crowds gather to raise awareness for homeless in “Big Sleep Out”

National News

NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. (CBS) — Crowds of people braved the cold for the “Big Sleep Out” in Times Square. They did it to raise awareness and money for the homeless.

New York City is one of the richest places in the world, yet there are tens of thousands of homeless people who live there.

All of the people in the busy tourist area Saturday night did not think that is acceptable, CBS2’s Christina Fan reports.

The few brave souls, willing to spend the night in the bitter winter cold with nothing but their jackets and a sleeping bag, still they knew they are more comfortable than most of the city’s homeless. That’s the reason they made this stand.

“I just went outside to smoke a cigar and I just noticed the street was wall to wall homeless people. I went over to the stand and I bought a couple of bagels and a couple of cups of coffee and I just figured it’s not enough,” Bruce Fixelle of New Jersey said.

Fixelle was one of about a thousand people “sleeping out” in Times Square. The event happened worldwide in over 50 major cities. Fixelle said a recent failed business venture made him realize how easy it is to lose everything.

“I’ve fallen onto some difficult times. Actually, I received a foreclosure notice on my home. Which I think I’m going to fight my way through but it doesn’t take much,” he told CBS2’s Christina Fan.

Celebrities including Will Smith graced the stage to read a bedtime story before participants rolled out their sleeping bags. The event is expected to raise millions of dollars for charity.

“I don’t expect to walk away necessarily understanding what people go through, I think it’s more about standing in solidarity and people on the street seeing there is power in numbers,” Tommy Heller of Long Island said.

Organizers say the event also aims to generate political awareness, so leaders build more affordable housing and invest in those with mental illness or addiction.

“What I always hear from them is that they feel invisible, they feel like people look through them walk past them they feel bit invisible politically,” the event’s founder, Josh Littlejohn said.

Organizers say over 100 million people globally do not have a roof over their heads. In New York City, the homeless population is close to 64,000.

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