On average between 60-65 people in Scotland’s Largest City’s are living on the street before identifying themselves to an accommodation service. As a result of this Edinburgh City Council has recently declared they will eliminate homelessness by 2012. One organisation that is working towards making the city council’s dream a reality is Streetwork UK, whose aim is to provide realistic and long lasting solutions for those living on the streets.
Currently based in Edinburgh this group of dedicated volunteers came together in 1992. Their mission was to deal with youth gangs in Edinburgh’s city centre. Through this work they began to discover that these children were also dealing with the stress of sleeping outdoors as well as drug use and prostitution. In an effort to help these young people Streetwork changed its objective to become the organisation they are today.
2008 sees Streetwork in and around Scotland’s capital every night without fail, talking to and helping the homeless community as well as coordinating a Runaways Action Scheme. The scheme which is run by members of Streetwork, including ex-runaways, carry out workshops in schools which provides information and support for youngsters who want to escape their current situations at home. As well as this, Streetwork has set up exciting initiatives such as a pilot launched in 2003 for a homeless run coffee shop which the then Communities Minister, Malcolm Chisholm gave his full support for by telling the BBC after the shops first opening, the project “…has great potential to provide real employment opportunities.”
Due to the success of this pilot Street Work are now hoping to open the coffee shop full time. Communications Officer, Josie Soutar says that because of helpful funding from future builders they were able to purchase a permanent building for the coffee shop on South Bridge which will open in April next year. By giving the project a new home it is now hoped it will be able to find street sleepers permanent employment.
A fine example of the projects success in this area is the ’New Deal Job Centre Award’ which was given to a young woman for her hard work in the coffee shop. The woman who cannot be named first came to Streetwork with severe alcohol problems which were felt to be a result of boredom. Because of this she was placed in the coffee shop and in time made a complete turn around.
This is not the only award the organisation has won. Recently Streework was also honoured with the Primetime award for their “Out in the Cold Project” which aims to help to help the elderly and homeless as they are sometimes neglected. However, despite all this success, Streetwork would still like to see more government funding put behind homeless charities.
Soutar claims that though Scotland generally dose provide good social services the tasks that face them can be challenging as services are “…so based on money”. As well as this she stated that media plays a large role in were government money is spent, based on trends of what socials problems are perceived as most problematic at the time. Because of this some charities in Scotland are still going under funded and for organisations such as Streetwork to continue their work, funding is vital.