A West Lothian firm has handed out 100 weatherproof coats, which double as sleeping bags, free of charge to those most in need in its first year.
The Ootsider, a community interest company set up by Uphall man John Keogh, uses net profits from sales of their garments to wild swimmers and outdoor sports enthusiasts to fund the manufacture of the Sleeping Coats to give away.
A series of sponsored sleep outs in the run up to Christmas helped John raise £10,000 to put into coat manufacture and he is now planning a second event at the Gyle Shopping centre on the edge of Edinburgh for this year.
He is also working with a local school developing an education programme, which highlights the issues around homeless and rough sleeping to youngsters.
John said he believes in “getting kids in primary schools involved in creating the programme of education and awareness, essentially a programme created by kids for kids.”
He added: “And to kick this off we’ll be working with Mrs Stewart the headteacher and the children at Deans Primary School, next term on a project which is really exciting and something I’m looking forward to.”
The Gyle plan will also raise funds for more Ootsider garments.
John said: “Following on from our successful ’12 Nights of Christmas Sleep-Oot’ in December 2022, we are collaborating with Gyle Shopping Centre for our Winter Sleep-Oot on November 4 at the centre in Edinburgh.
“Registration for the event is free. All we ask is that you raise as much as you are able to with a suggestion of £150 per person, or £250 for a family of four, with all proceeds from the event going towards the manufacture and distribution of The Ootsider Sleeping Coats to folks sleeping rough in our communities.”
A retired engineer, John got the idea to create the Ootsider coat after a conversation he had with a homeless man in Glasgow.
It was, he says, a life changing experience.
In its founding aims The Ootsider CIC states it is “dedicated to making a positive social impact through the provision of practical assistance for anyone whose life and well-being is at risk.”
John added: “We understand the challenges faced by those experiencing homelessness and sleeping rough, particularly when sleeping in adverse weather conditions, and have developed an innovative, unique and practical sleeping coat designed specifically to meet the practical needs and enhance the well-being and dignity of rough sleepers.
“Income through the sales of our range of hand-made in Scotland, high-quality garments to the public allows The Ootsider to operate on a model of social reinvestment. All net profits generated from the sale of garments, along with donations received, are reinvested into producing and donating The Ootsider Sleeping Coat.
“This ensures that every purchase and donation directly contributes to enhancing the physical health, mental health and welfare of people experiencing homelessness and during nights spent sleeping rough on the streets.”
The 100 Ootsider coats have been distributed in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Motherwell as well as in some British cities. A donation of coats also went to Ukraine to help war refugees.