IN this day and age. It’s an expression that, doubtless, has been used in every day and age. Fred Flintstone probably turned to Wilma and said: “It’s ridiculous that we still have poverty in this day and stone age.”

Well, this news just in, Fred: we still have poverty in this day and electronic age. The nadir of poverty is homelessness, and it’s a salient feature of 21st century Britain. That is to say, an ostensibly wealthy country still cannot (or will not) provide homes for many of its citizens.

To that extent, stripped of our beeping gadgets, things are barely better than in the Middle Ages. Indeed, given the forced nature of community back then, somebody would have taken you in.

Fast forward to Dickensian times when poverty was horrendous and, as now, there were people who worried about it and people who did not. In a sense, given our resources and options, the cruelty is worse now.

There are people with the collected works of Dickens on their bookshelves who troop into polling booths to vote for welfare cuts. They pretend they are economic realists or some such, but make a decision to keep or make their fellow citizens poor.

Beadle Bumble is now happily employed at the Department of Work and Pensions. Thomas Gradgrind is still holding forth in the golf club with his cold facts and his cold heart in the name of profit. Ebenezer Scrooge, because of his conversion to goodness and decency, is now regarded as a dangerous Marxist.

Fortunately, just as the great blessing of Dickens was his kind characters, there are many people around today who are imbued not just with Christmas spirit but with a desire to help those worse off than themselves.

Such is Social Bite, the collection of individuals behind Sleep in the Park, due to take place in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens.

This will see an estimated 9,000 people take part in what is said to be the “world’s largest ever sleep-out” to show solidarity but also to raise funds for the homeless. Individuals taking part will have raised £100 each, including their £50 registration deposit.

As a reward, they’ll be entertained by a fantastic line-up of guests and celebrity supporters: acoustic sets from Liam Gallagher, Amy Macdonald, Frightened Rabbit and Deacon Blue; inspiring words from Sir Bob Geldof and social entrepreneur Josh Littlejohn; bedtime stories by John Cleese; and bacon rolls in the morning served by comedian Rob Brydon and Scottish Government ministers.

Social Bite is aiming to raise £4 million for homelessness projects and wants the scourge eradicated within five years: “With such human suffering on the streets of our small nation, it is important that we are impatient,” it says.

How encouraging to see people grabbing the bull by the horns like this in Scotland, where we have a greater sense now that we can achieve things, even if we’re still fettered.

Those taking part in the big sleep should wrap up warm, obviously. Hot drinks will be available. And in the best tradition of Scottish direct action: nae bevvy.

The site for Sleep in the Park at Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, will open around 5:30pm on Saturday, with entertainment from 8pm to 10:45pm and lights out, as it were, at 11.00pm.