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How To Raise Money For The Homeless By Sleeping Outside (At A Free Rose Bowl Concert)

Meghan Trainor performs at L.A. Pride 2019 on June 8 in West Hollywood. (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
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The World's Big Sleep Out wants you to grab your sleeping bag and bundle up for the homeless. This Saturday's charity event is trying to raise awareness -- and money -- for fighting homelessness around the world. Los Angeles's piece of this will be held at the Rose Bowl, featuring a free outdoor concert (and a 50 percent chance of rain).


Local organizer Ema Schulz has a personal connection to the issue -- her home burned down in last year's Woolsey Fire.

"We got nothing, pretty much, out of our house, because we were out of town," Schulz said.

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Schulz is the global outreach consultant for Pasadena's Charity On Top, which is organizing locally for the worldwide event. The World's Big Sleep Out started in the U.K., springing out of concern over homelessness in Scotland, but has since gone global with events held around the world.

"When Ema's house burned down, and had she not had insurance, and had they had not had people that came forward to help out, and all of these little dominoes wouldn't have stacked in her favor -- then she's no different from anyone else," Charity On Top co-founder Marchelle Sellers said.

The original plan for the local charity organizers was to hold a small fundraiser with a few hundred people, meant to fight homelessness in six local beach cities. But then the worldwide organizers asked them to host a much larger event, and Sellers said they couldn't turn that down.


Sean Kingston performs onstage during the 2015 Hollywood Christmas Parade on Nov. 29, 2015. (Mike Windle/Getty Images for The Hollywood Christmas Parade)

They're billing the event as a Live Aid for homelessness. Live Aid famously raised money to battle famine in Africa, with massive outdoor concerts held in London and Philadelphia. This isn't on that scale, but the Rose Bowl concert will feature Meghan Trainor, Ziggy Marley, and Randy Jackson, with a bedtime lullaby from Ellie Goulding and a bedtime story from actor Seth Green.

"Every day we see people suffering on the streets and I feel so much for these people," singer/rapper Sean Kingston said via email. "I hope this event will bring much more awareness to this growing issue globally, but especially the crisis we have here in L.A."

Kingston said that he feels a personal connection with the homeless issue.

"I think everyone who lives in L.A. does -- we see it every day on the streets here," Kingston said.

He goes out each year with his family to volunteer on Skid Row every year, delivering food, sleeping bags, and other supplies to the homeless.

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"We were there again this Thanksgiving. It's really hard to see so many people suffering -- I try and do what I can to make their life just a little bit easier, and that's why it was important for me to do this concert."

Organizer Schulz said she knows being homeless has an especially large impact at this time of year -- she was displaced around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

"We didn't have a house to put a tree, or to have family over, or even walk into a store and think about anything, because all we were thinking about is, we don't have a home -- what are we going to do?" Schulz said.

They were OK because they had insurance, according to Schulz -- but she said that it helped her to understand the mental struggle of being homeless.

"The only way to stay healthy is to stay focused and just help other people, because there's people less fortunate," Schulz said.


People sleeping out at a World's Big Sleep Out event in Edinburgh, Sept. 12, 2017. (Jeff Holmes/, courtesy Charity On Top)

Tens of thousands of homeless people sleep on the streets of Los Angeles County every night. Being sensitive to that fact with this event was important to Sellers.

"When you think about the homeless, and say people are sleeping out, and that's supposed to... I don't know, it's mocking, or doing something that they feel might be insensitive -- the bigger idea, the bigger lift around this is drawing worldwide attention to something that needs so much light shone on it," Sellers said.

She compared the event to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, using something catchy to raise awareness.

"If we were all sitting in a closet somewhere having a conversation about homelessness, we sure wouldn't move the needle," Sellers said.

Half of the money raised is set to go toward fighting global homelessness, including refugees and other displaced peoples. The other half is set to benefit local charities -- including organizers Charity on Top.

Sellers said that they plan to bring accountability to how the funds raised are used.

"We went to the charities ahead of time, and we said, 'you're going to get this money, and if you get this money, what can you do with it?'" Sellers said.

They plan to do check-ins with the other charities, which include the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the Downtown Women's Center, Union Station Homeless Services, and others.

The performers involved in the event are performing for free, according to Schulz. Several of them have personal connections with homelessness, which they will share with the crowd Saturday night, Schulz said.

"That's why we're doing it, so everyone can understand it's an issue that touches all of our lives, and it's very personal for all of us -- specifically, me," Schulz said, chuckling.

But if you want to support the cause without freezing for too long, don't worry -- you can just come out for the concert without spending the night.

The World's Big Sleep Out is Saturday night, with the L.A. event starting at 4:30 p.m. You can register for the free event here.

This story has been updated.