Lockdown period offers hope in quest to end homelessness in Scotland

Image credit: Iain McLean

THE largest provider of homeless services in Scotland has revealed that one potential ‘silver lining’ of the Covid-19 lockdown period is that it has provided opportunities to offer solutions for people experiencing homelessness.

Since the start of lockdown, the organisation’s staff, volunteers and partners have supported 2,500 people experiencing homelessness or the risk of homelessness. This included virtually eradicating rough sleeping for the first 14 days of lockdown from the streets of Glasgow and Edinburgh for the first time in decades.

Announcing this achievement during New Homes Week, Lorraine McGrath, chief executive of Simon Community Scotland said, “While Covid-19 has been devastating in so many ways, lockdown has given us an opportunity to provide solutions for people facing homelessness to find safety, stability and recovery, often for the first time in years.  Many people have been more able to accept our support, and importantly, been able to find new ways to thrive once they have.

“We have always believed it is possible to end homelessness. An important silver lining of lockdown is that we now know what works to achieve this.”

Simon Community Scotland’s vision is for everyone to have a safe place to live with access to the help they need. Despite lockdown, a wide range of individuals aged from 16 to 84 have received support, including 156,000 meals. This has been achieved together with partners like the Scottish Government, local authorities, corporate donors and individual donors through its first ever crowdfunding campaign, #GiveHope, which has raised over £135,000 during lockdown.

Many people supported by Simon Community Scotland have experienced trauma from a young age, affecting their ability to recover and rebuild their lives. The charity said that having immediate access to a range of support delivered by partners at hotels being used across Edinburgh and Glasgow has been ‘key’ in creating long term lasting change.

Simon Community Scotland is now launching a social media campaign, #LockdownLegends. The campaign will include a series of posts about the contribution made by staff and volunteers to help keep people safe during lockdown and support them in making positive change.

Scotland’s housing minister Kevin Stewart said, “It is in large part due to the commitment and hard work of partners like Simon Community that we have been able to support people who may otherwise have been sleeping rough into safe accommodation. Despite the devastating impact of Covid-19 pandemic, it has provided a unique opportunity to lock in a positive change and realise our ambition of ending homelessness and rough sleeping in Scotland for good. The challenge ahead is to make sure that nobody ends up back on the street and the Scottish Government will work with all partners to ensure we support people into settled homes.”

Lorraine McGrath explained the importance of remaining focussed on ending homelessness in Scotland, “While fewer people are currently sleeping on streets, the risks are still there. These are likely to increase as we see the financial impact of this pandemic hit. We are already seeing more people seeking support, with more people than ever in temporary accommodation. We are grateful to partners, staff, volunteers, donors and those who have provided political support. But we cannot rest. To avoid huge swathes of people returning to rough sleeping and to ensure the positive changes created with the individuals we have supported during lockdown, it is vital that these priorities remain in focus. With this support and political drive, we can prevent rough sleeping on our city streets and all forms of homelessness not just in lockdown but forever.”

To find out more, visit https://www.simonscotland.org/support-us/covid19-donation/