Tag Archives: Homeless

The Edinburgh – Glasgow co-op on Homeless World Cup

Photo Above: Book Signing at Event © Philip Wegmann

By Ian McNally and Philip Wegmann

An Edinburgh church was transformed into a football sanctuary yesterday, as it played host to the launch of a new book about the Homeless World Cup.

“Home Game” by Mel Young and Peter Barr was unveiled in Augustine United Church on George IV Bridge and featured a Q&A with the authors followed by a book sale and signing session.

Continue reading The Edinburgh – Glasgow co-op on Homeless World Cup

Podcast: Shelter Scotland encourages the homeless to vote

Shelter has launched a new initiative, in partnership with the Scottish Electoral Commission, to encourage homeless people to put themselves on the electoral roll.

Those who wish to vote in the up-coming local elections can either declare a local connection, telling the nearest office where they spend the majority of their time, or register a hostel or other temporary accommodation address.

Research carried out by the commission has shown that only 56% of people living in rented accommodation  were registered to vote in April 2011, compared to 88% of home owners.

In addition, an FOI request released on February 28th this year showed that only 34 people in the whole of Scotland had chosen to register via ‘a declaration of local connection’, as of December 2011.

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Homelessness charities praise parliament

By Jack Matthews

The Scottish Parliament are today voting on a decision whether to end the right of tenants to buy their council houses in Scotland.

The debate over this issue arose after concerns over the cost of keeping such a law in force, as the Right to Buy means that as more tenants buy their council houses from the government, more schemes must be implemented and funded to compensate for those homes lost to the private market.

It is unsure, however, how effective a cost cutting measure this will be on the true face of things.  Studies found that recent support services in Scotland which cost £107m to implement, saved a total of £129m.

On the other hand, the bill, if passed today, would have positive ramifications for many homeless people across the country, as it will free up many of the council houses that would otherwise be snatched up by tenants asserting the Right to Buy.

Alistair Cameron, Chief Executive of homelessness charity Scottish Churches Housing Action, said today ‘We are delighted by this measure.’

He added, ‘Whatever benefits the right to buy policy has had for individuals, it has intensely damaged the ability of councils to carry out their homelessness duties.’

The parliament’s decision on the ballot will be announced at close of parliament today.

Homeless charity release promising results

Homeless on the streets this winter

A Scottish charity is feeling prepared for the coming winter after recently publishing their Annual Report for the year 2009/10, showing promising results.
As many homeless people in the city prepare for the oncoming winter nights, so too does Edinburgh based charity, the Bethany Christian Trust. Encouraged by the positive results published in their report, the trust aims to reach as many people as possible who are in need this winter.
Their Annual Report “One Good Turn” highlights the difference Bethany is making in their core areas, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness and Dumfries.
Founded in 1983, named Scottish Charity of the Year 2009 and most recently Morton Fraser’s Charity of the Year 2010, Bethany’s growing success is obvious in the report.
In their Edinburgh care shelter alone 928 people were given a safe place to sleep, and warm meal and vital support over 29 different venues. 6,739 meals were provided, an average of 44 people slept in their care shelters each night, with the help of 809 volunteers and 80 different church groups. The Bethany Christian Centre, a hostel for males with addictions in Edinburgh saw 100% of males with substance abuse reduce their use during their occupancy.
Claire Durham, fundraising, marketing and information for Bethany Christian Trust is pleased with the results shown in the report: “We are very proud of what has been achieved so far and we really need to keep going with that.”
The Bethany charity provides a wide range of services including addiction support, accommodation, furniture provision, community education and employment opportunities to anyone who needs their services, regardless of their background or belief.  23,580 hot drinks were gifted to homeless people on the streets in the last year.With winter approaching, these services will prove even more valuable for the homeless people in Edinburgh.
The charity is working to see homelessness reduced and vulnerable people empowered to live independently within society. Claire commented:”All services are valuable because they help people at whatever stage they are at and whatever position they may be in.”

A spokesperson from the City of Edinburgh Council stressed the fact that help is available: “Come forward to the local authority and get help this winter, there is support available.”

With around 4,000 volunteers in Edinburgh alone Claire says that their work must continue. “Our work is constant, we owe so much to our volunteers, who run out services, our supporters and our staff.”Claire appealed to those on the streets this winter: “Please get in touch with us, go to the Access Point or through the council, find out about our services. We really want to help. If they can not come to us, we will go to them to help.”

The charity is also succeeding financially, with income up 12% from the previous year amounting to £6,174,478 with expenditure also up 7% amounting to £6,173,297 A full breakdown of the charity’s income and expenditure as well as statistics on the usage of their facilities can be found in the report published on their website. http://www.bethanychristiantrust.com

Edinburgh’s iconic homeless find a home in cyberspace

A string of pages on social networking sites have emerged paying tribute to some of the Capital’s most recognizable homeless men. Facebook has two pages dedicated to ‘Rastatramp’ – the Leith local whose nickname stems from his long gray dreadlocks and dark skin. Some of the posts left by ‘fans’ seem to be poking fun at the vagrant, however the majority seem to suggest a genuine affection for him, like Nicki Buntin who posted “This guy is a Legend… everyone from Leith knows him.. hes a real good guy, had many a convo with him ♥”.
Another of Edinburgh’s distinct individuals to attract attention on the web is “Beaverman” so-called because of his long mane of matted hair which looks similar to a beaver’s tail. Both men feature in the site Edinburgh Cult Celebrities appreciation thread and the Beaverman’s own Facebook page has over 4000 fans.
Of course it is unlikely that either of these gentlemen will have access to the internet and are probably completely unaware of their cyber popularity. Perhaps therefore those who have a genuine fondness or sympathy for these men could dedicate their time to something more worthwhile; imagine the impact it would make to charities such as Shelter if just a few of the Beaverman’s fanbase donated their free time to volunteer to help the homeless instead of surfing the net.

Charities forced to fight for funding

photo courtesy of flickr
photo courtesy of flickr

By Laura McLean

Charities providing homeless services in Edinburgh have been forced to close as Edinburgh City Council launches a new ‘robust tendering’ process in which they must compete for funding.

Following London Mayor Boris Johnson’s bid to end homelessness in London by 2012 The City of Edinburgh Council has recommended that Charities in the city should go head to head over funding in an attempt to give the best quality service. With an aim to prevent homelessness north of the border Council leaders have imposed restrictions on certain charity funding.

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh City Council said, ‘The finance committee is awarding contracts in five key areas. First in providing advice and information to people threatened with homelessness, emergency services for people at risk of sleeping rough, help to set up a new home, help to find a house with a good private landlord and housing support services to help people keep their home.

The introduction of these new services will mean a better quality of service for those who come to us for support and advice.’

In order to win a contract each charity must make a plea to the council stating why they can provide the best service in each area. Catriona Beaton who looks after funding at The Bethany Trust Foundation said that any Charity not awarded funding will find it impossible to compete with the services provided by the council.

She said ‘Charities have had to partner up in case they don’t win the bidding war. It means that workers are being pulled over to Bethany from other charities but we can’t give everyone a job. Some people have been made redundant.’

Since being commissioned in January this year the scheme has already forced The Edinburgh Furnture Initiative and Shelter Edinburgh’s Families Project to close.

The Edinburgh Families Project closed this week. It is one of Shelter’s oldest and most successful programmes. In the last 10 years it has worked with 415 homeless families, helping 810 children from those families deal with the trauma of homelessness.

Although families currently using the project will be transferred over to the new council providers, Manager of the Edinburgh project Paula Robertson fears that the valuable service provided by shelter over the last decade is being brushed off.

She said ‘I’m devastated the project is closing, not just for those families we are currently helping, but also for those whom we could have helped in the future. We know that the Shelter Families Project model works and it’s awful for a service that is proven to work to have to close. I’m also sad for all the staff that have given their all to help families through homelessness and I thank them for all their hard work.’

But Edinburgh City Council maintain that it is the council’s responsibility to help Edinburgh’s homeless and by giving more money to the best service provider they can ensure that the best possible care is given.

Councillor Norman Work, Chair of Edinburgh’s Homeless Forum said, ‘People who are homeless or faced with losing their home are usually going through a very difficult time. We need to know that they are getting the best possible care. The Council has undertaken such a rigorous process to make sure we have the services in place to make sure this happens.’

Contracts have been awarded to around 8 charities since January including The Bethany Christian Trust and Edinburgh Cyrenians Trust. The council intends to transfer all charity work to the new scheme by 1st May 2009.

Homeless service closed

By Edwin Mashonganyika

The Edinburgh City Council will provide temporary accommodation to anyone at risk of having to sleep rough, the Housing leader Paul Edie said today.

The Housing leader was reacting after Cowgate Centre, a Homeless service in the City, announced that it would close at night sparking fears that up to 40 would be left without a place to sleep.

Cowgate Centre would downgrade to day provision only, and it was feared that the former users would be forced back on the streets.

“We can provide emergency accommodation to anyone who is at risk of having to sleep rough. The homelessness strategy emphasises the need to provide suitable accommodation.

“The new service will provide temporary accommodation which avoids the need for people to use Cowgate centre at night. This will avoid the current situation where people stay overnight there sleeping on chairs and mats, Paul Edie said.

A Christmas Carol

by Otis Shaw

dcp_0022As I sat in the Senso-ji Temple gardens in Tokyo, desperately trying to find a plausible connection between the colonial adventures of Lord Jim and the `inconvenience` of Japan`s homeless. I was startled by the sounds of reindeer bells. I closed the chapter on Lord Jim and looked up to see a short, swollen, women, dressed in ill-fitting clothes. The bells were embedded in the tinsel that bound her dress. Layers of nylon and wool protected her from the winter chill, held tight against her body like the layers of an onion. Her body armour displayed colours only to be found in a children`s department store. The size 8, hooded top was adorned with green men from outer space. The word “alien” held aloft in a speech bubble. Her lime green woollen hat, identified her as `one of them`.

Struggling under the weight of her garments, her buckled feet, squeezed into abandoned trainers, the old women rocked to and fro, as she weaved in and out of the temple benches. An imaginary maze set up to constrict her daily routine. From her dry, chapped lips, she delicately whispered a prayer. The words were repeated over and over, like a sweet Christmas carol, closing the doors to all those others and protecting her from harm.

japanese-homeless-stylish-homes2Those unfortunate people who awake from their cardboard hell every Christmas, hidden away amongst the maze of shopping malls in Asakusa, seek refuge during the day in the Senso-ji Temple grounds. Japan`s aristocracy stroll past these vagrants, their eyes filtering through these woollen outcasts and focusing on the many food stalls encroaching the entrance to the temple.

Thousands upon thousands of visitors pour into the main hall in order to catch a glimpse of the sacred Boddhisattva Kannon statue and whisper a prayer to themselves before disgarding any loose change into the offerings box.

As I sat in the corner of the hall, visitors, local and foreign, bounced of each other, never really experiencing physical or eye contact, finally departing through the exit. I couldn`t help but think of the giant pinball arcades, filled with erogenous slot machines, that line every major city in Japan. A plaque at the side of the inner sanctum was almost completely ignored by thirsty revellers. It read;

Over the years, Buddhism, which originated in the fifth century B.C.E., diverged into two main branches: Hiinayaana which holds that adherents should faithfully follow the teachings of founder Buddha Shakyamuni, to reach enlightenment themselves, and Mahaayaana, which teaches that the faithful should not only seek their own enlightenment, but also help the suffering … Believers in Buddhism gave these figures concrete forms, creating sculptures of them, which they worshipped. Boddhisattva Kannon is one among many Bodhisattvas, and since early times has been widely worshipped by Japanese in particular. Bodhisattva Kannon is also the most merciful of the Bodhisattvas, sent to relieve human misery on Earth.

avalokitesvara

Many Japanese believe that their hopes and pleas will reach this deity. In particular, the Bodhisattva Kannon worshipped at Senso-ji has been an unparalleled source of benefits and miracles over the centuries, and has saved and protected countless people since its appearance in this world. Faith in the Bodhisattva Kannon, which has supported Senso-ji and drawn many people to this temple, consists of opening one`s heart and living by the merciful spirit of Bodhisattva Kannon and at the same time showing mercy to others in daily life. We hope that visitors to Senso-ji will join their hands in prayer, receive the merciful spirit of the Boddhisattva Kannon into their hearts and pray that they can bestow that mercy upon others.

On that note, the popular front, continuing to overspend at Christmas, pray that Santa has slipped another blank cheque-book into their stocking. As the world economy skates on thin ice, shouldn’t we be building more cardboard boxes before we fork out for another plasma television?

Arigatou gozaimasu.

Edinburgh Homeless Target Will Not Be Met

By Nicol J. Craig

The Scottish Government will now not meet its target of ceasing the practice of local authorities placing homeless in private accommodation by 2012, according to local councillor Gordon Munro.

Leith councillor Gordon Munro, who wants more social housing, said: “We’re at the end of 2008 now so we have three years to meet this target and it’s not looking good.”

He added: “It’s partly down to the capital effect as well. More people are coming from other areas into Edinburgh because they know they’ll get put into decent accommodation, possibly quicker.”

Edinburgh taxpayers currently have to pay at least four times more than anywhere else in Scotland to curb the cities homeless problem.

Recent figures show that 900 people were put into private rented accommodation in Glasgow last year compared to 200.

A council representative said the new figures do not take into account Edinburgh’s unique situation regarding the homeless.  Edinburgh requires three quarters of the nations affordable housing need, but receives only a quarter of the funding.  Council aids say that using the cities abundance of private rented accommodation is good for the homeless and good for landlords.

The council currently spends £2 million on putting up homeless people back into homes, but also uses the money on B&B’s up to £35 a night.

Councillor Paul Edie, housing leader, said: “We subsidise them going into private accommodation so they are not on the street and I don’t think it is a long-term solution, but short of getting more money for affordable housing it is just sticking plasters over the problem.

He added: “We need to build more council and social housing and faster because it does take time as well.”

The council are also discussing proposals to give council backed mortgages for those in rented accommodation that are in work.

Properties

Over 5,000 people, 500 of these registered as homeless, are currently on waiting lists for housing. With property prices within the Scottish Borders increasing rapidly.

Housing within the Borders has recently become very difficult to purchase with the ever inflating prices rocketing, otherwise known as the ‘property boom’. This means it is close to impossible for house seekers, especially first time buyers to put their feet on the property ladder, let alone actually reach the top.

To house those who are currently listed for awaited shelter will take up to 13 years, not including the thousands that will be added within the next few years – even though there is already a massive 568 people with the priority of being homeless.

In some circumstances people have actually listed as homeless just in hope that they may get lucky at finding a home.

James Bremner, 20, said: “I need a place quite urgently and as I wasn’t getting on very well, I listed myself as homeless is hope to get somewhere quicker. Even now I am still waiting, despite waiting for months, it’s ridiculous!”

Despite local criticism there is still a homeless hostel standing unused in the town of Galashiels due to lack of parking and garden facilities, even though there is in fact over 135 people left homeless within this very town.

If housing is so desperately needed, it is extremely unlikely that it will matter about such minor details as these.

Laura Stewart, 26, argued: “I want a roof over my head, not a parking space for a car I don’t have!”

Another home seeker, Stuart Lothian, 22, said: “It’s a huge building, and using this for housing would be perfect, but no, they won’t. Making it a completely pointless building.”

It is still unknown what exactly will happen to this site, as discussions are still underway. In the meantime the building has been a target for severe vandalism and crime. Leaving a possible opportunity as nothing more than an empty, useless waste of space.