Every year in the UK 80,000 young people experience homelessness, a fact known to too few but one that should trouble all of us.
Tonight members of the public in eight cities will make their feelings known by giving up their beds and spending a night on the street in the largest national Sleep Out of its kind.
The 2,000 people expected to bed down at events from Edinburgh to Southampton, Norwich to Cardiff, are doing so to not only make people think again about those they see every day, but also ensure that homeless young people can find the help they need through charities like Centrepoint and our partners across the UK.
Because leaving homelessness behind takes more than just a safe place to stay. The £750,000 participants aim to raise tonight will help give homeless young people a future, whether that's through Llamau in Cardiff, The Rock Trust in Edinburgh, The Society of St James in Southampton, The Amber Foundation in Bath, St Edmund's Society in Norwich or Keyhouse and the Young People's Support Foundation in Manchester.
Young people must make the most of the opportunities, but the money raised will provide the vital support in tackling health problems, accessing training and employment and the life skills a 16-25 year-old, who may never have benefited from a stable family environment, learn the skills to live independently.
Sleep Out doesn't pretend to replicate the experience of rough sleeping or the mental impact of homelessness on a young person. It is impossible for the thousands of people who will take part tonight to come remotely close to experiencing the loneliness and desperation too many still face every night - whether bedding down on the pavement, a night bus, in a disused building, in a B&B or on the latest of a seemingly endless chain of sofas.
But it can spur people to action, whether that is giving their time, their money or their advice as a mentor.
By coming together nationally, once a year, those taking part can throw a spotlight on the barriers facing young people. Yes, they will do so by spending just one night on the streets, but without demanding the attention of the media and the public as a group of charities we will struggle to take the true scale of homelessness in the UK from the concern of a knowledgeable minority to a national debate.
It has never been more important that we do so. High youth unemployment, welfare reforms and reductions in government grants to local councils have made it increasingly difficult for young people to find work or housing at truly affordable levels. And if homeless young people are to truly turn their lives around they need two things above all else: a home and a job.
Tonight will not end youth homelessness, but it will set us on the road to finally ending a blight which effects 80,000 too many young lives.
Centrepoint Sleep Out is raising funds to give homeless young people a future, safe place to stay and the support they need this winter. Visit http://www.centrepoint.org/xmas to see how you can get involved."
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