Interview, photography and filming opportunities – Glasgow – Thursday September 1. You are invited to send a representative
A PRACTICAL attempt to tackle homelessness is this week taking place at a bicycle recycling workshop – under the watchful eye of a charity marking its 50th birthday and hoping the anniversary will spark an increase in volunteers.
Simon Community Scotland is providing a group of people, who are homeless, with the opportunity to build their own bike, insodoing learning new skills for the future.
Working with the Glasgow outlet of the Scotland-wide bicycle recycling organisation, The Bike Station, the collaboration is an illustration of the charity’s ethos of finding solutions that are individually-tailored.
Says Simon Community Scotland chief executive, Lorraine McGrath: “Homelessness could happen to anyone and is as much hidden from view – such as sofa-hopping and short-term, uncertain lets – as it is visible, on our streets.
“It’s with mixed feelings that we mark our 50th birthday; but so long as there is homelessness we will be there, our ethos being about coming alongside people and finding practical solutions.”
The charity – which is hoping its 50th anniversary will result in a surge of volunteers – delivers around 170,000 hours of support every year and engages with up to 3,000 people at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness.
In particular, it seeks to reach rough sleepers in Glasgow, and its Street Team sees around 150 people on the streets every month, with up to 40 new cases each month.
Continues McGrath: “We are certainly using this 50th birthday to recruit more volunteers and we are fortunate to have secured funding to employ a dedicated volunteering manager.
“Our approach involves spending a lot of time. If you are going to be there for someone – helping carry the burden, for the journey – then you need to have not just a sympathetic ear, but the time. Volunteers can help us achieve that.
“Many of our volunteers are former service users and this 50th anniversary is also a chance to acknowledge how vital they are to us, plus our staff and other friends and supporters.”
The Bike Station initiative was established by Hugh Hill, director of services and development at Simon Community Scotland, and The Bike Station project manager, Victoria Leiper.
Hugh Hill said: “This collaboration with the Bike Station is an example of our work in action: it’s about providing people the chance to learn a new skill, improving self-confidence and providing a means of transport; for instance, for job interviews.”
Carolanne Boyle, aged 43, first became homeless during her early 20s, following a relationship breakdown. She has been homeless, on and off these last 20 years or so, but is now benefitting from the support of Simon Community Scotland in various guises, including gardening in a local allotment.
She said: “I never imagined myself being able to build a bike, from scratch, but here I am.
“The bike is built, it’s helping me keep fit and I’m cycling every day. It’s really helping me turn my life around.
“I am now starting to get my weight sorted. With Simon Community Scotland, I’m doing so much, it’s really constructive.”
Several events are schedule this month [September] to mark the Simon Community Scotland’s birthday, the highlight being a ‘shindig’, on the 29th, involving service users, staff, volunteers and partner organisations.
Says Victoria Leiper, project manager at The Bike Station: “The build-your-own bike courses are not just about bike building but also cover key skills such as route planning and safe on-road cycling – including going out on the roads.
“By the end of the course, the ladies not only have a bike to get them from A to B but the skills and confidence to cycle as a mode of travel.
“The partnership we have with Simon Community Scotland is all about providing opportunities for people that make a difference to their day-to-day lives – we are a great fit and are thrilled to be working with such a worthwhile and established organisation.”
Notes to editors:
Lorraine McGrath is available for interview (on 0141 418 6980 or 07834 471 867), as are a selection of service and former service users.
Lorraine, Hugh Hill and service user, Carolanne Boyle, will be attending The Bike Station on Thursday September 1, between noon and 1.30pm.
You are invited to send a representative to The Bike Station and welcome to give advance notice to Lyndsey Wilson, on 0141 418 6982, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bike Station is located at 65 Haugh Road, Glasgow G3 8TX.
More generally, Lorraine is available to write agenda, platform, open space-type 700-word articles, to coincide with SCS’s 50th birthday.
A couple of key dates during September:
September 27 – 472 Ballater Street, Glasgow – showcasing a specially-commissioned mural, by the artist, EJEK.
September 29 – Glasgow – Shindig – celebration of staff, current and former service users, volunteers and partner organisations.
Simon Community Scotland, in figures:
We deliver around 170,000 hours of support every year and engage with up to 3,000 people at risk of or experiencing homelessness; 70 per cent of whom are male, aged mainly between 35 and 50 years-old;
Around 50 per cent of the people we support are able to move on positively over the course of any three-month period.
We operate eight residential facilities.
We actively engage to reach rough sleepers in Glasgow and its Street Team see around 150 people on the streets every month, with up to 40 new cases each month.
Rough sleeping, in figures*:
People who are long-term rough sleeping have a life expectancy of 47. The average life expectancy of a women rough sleeping is 43.
Rough sleepers are 13 times more likely than the general public to experience violence, 47 times more likely to be the victim of theft and three times more likely to have been a victim of a road traffic accident. One in ten rough sleepers are estimated to have been a victim of sexual violence within the previous 12 months.
* Sources: Homelessness: A silent killer (December 2011, Crisis) and The unhealthy state of homelessness – health audit results 2014 (Homeless Link).
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