A CALL has been issued by one of Scotland’s best-known charities for spare rooms, to help prevent young people sleeping rough.
The homelessness charity, Simon Community Scotland – which is, this month, marking its 50th anniversary – has received funding from the Big Lottery Fund to set up a network of beds in people’s spare rooms, throughout Glasgow.
Says the charity, a young person will be able to stay in their own private room, with a welcoming volunteer host – for up to three nights.
The hope is that, during that time, Simon Community Scotland staff can then assist the young person to find a more long-term solution to what has taken them to the brink of homelessness.
Last year, it was announced that Simon Community Scotland would be one of seven charities to be supported by the Rangers Charity Foundation.
In November, the foundation is staging a series of ‘sleep outs’ at Rangers’ football ground, Ibrox, to raise funds, while the Big Lottery Fund is providing £150,000 towards making the nightstop service a reality.
Nightstop Glasgow is due to start operating from December.
Simon Community Scotland anticipates the service will, over its first three years, prevent 120 young people from sleeping rough or spending the night in an adult shelter.
Says Hugh Hill, director of Services at Simon Community Scotland: “The decision to sleep rough is a huge one; however, once someone has slept rough once, the decision to sleep rough again is a much easier one. So, it’s vital to stop rough sleeping before it has begun.
“The reasons why young people end up homeless are varied.
“Most commonly, it’s a breakdown in the relationship at home and sometimes a cooling-off period allows staff to support the family to reconnect and talk through their issues.
“Sometimes, the young person is escaping violence or abuse. Or is facing issues concerning their sexuality.”
The call is being made for the people of Glasgow to join the nightstop network, by offering up any spare rooms they have in their homes and becoming a nightstop host.
Before a host can provide a room, a full training, support and vetting exercise is undertaken by Simon Community Scotland staff.
Hill added: “The nightstop concept has been hugely successful in other parts of the country and we’re excited about the opportunity to deliver a safe, compassionate and homely alternative to potentially risky options elsewhere.”
The charity, Depaul UK, already leads a national nightstop network, with 33 services around the UK – from Edinburgh to Devon – working in partnership with local organisations to deliver it.
Said Nicola Harwood, head of Depaul Nightstop: “Last year, we provided 13,500 bed nights, increasing young people’s safety and making them less likely to sleep rough or become trapped in the cycle of homelessness.
“We are absolutely delighted to launch ‘Nightstop’ in Glasgow, and to be working in partnership with Simon Community Scotland to deliver this important service.
“Nightstop is a vital service for many young people who have nowhere to turn to, and it’s fantastic to see it being launched in the city this year.”
Added Lorraine McGrath, chief executive of Simon Community Scotland: “The support from the Big Lottery Fund and the Rangers Charity Foundation to develop a nightstop service is Glasgow is truly fantastic.
“Rough sleeping is unhealthy, unsafe and risky and we want to prevent young people who are already in distress and vulnerable being put at even more risk from homelessness.”
Lottery Fund Scotland chair, Maureen McGinn, said: “I am delighted that Simon Community Scotland has been successful in securing a Big Lottery Fund grant.
“This is an innovative project which will make a huge difference to the lives of young homeless people. It is great to see Lottery money being used not only to secure emergency accommodation for these young people but also to help them reconnect with their community through ongoing long term support.”
Said Connal Cochrane, director of the Rangers Charity Foundation: “This is a great new initiative which targets a very vulnerable group and we are delighted to offer our support.
“Glasgow has the highest concentration of young people who are homeless in Scotland and an average of 15 young people sleep rough every month in the city.
“We hope our Big Ibrox Sleeps Outs, which were hugely successful last year and raised £70,000, will help to make these shocking statistics a thing of the past.”
More generally, Simon Community Scotland – which is hoping its 50th anniversary will result in a surge in volunteer numbers, including from former service users – 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.
Simon Community Scotland has 200 staff.
Continues McGrath: “Our approach involves spending a lot of time, on an one-to-one basis, finding practical solutions. 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.”
Prospective Nightstop Glasgow volunteers, with spare rooms, should contact Pauline Hannigan on 0141 418 6980.
For more information about the sponsored sleep-out at Ibrox stadium, call 0141 580 8775 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors:
Hugh Hill is available for interview, as is Lorraine McGrath and a selection of service and former service users. To arrange an interview, contact Lyndsey Wilson, communications assistant at Simon Community Scotland, on 0141 418 6982.
Lorraine McGrath is also 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 this 50th birthday month:
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; and
* We actively engage to reach rough sleepers in Glasgow and our ‘street team’ see around 150 people on the streets every month, with up to 40 new cases each month.
Rough sleeping, in figures**:
* Over half of all rough sleepers first slept on the streets before they were 21 and homeless people are nine times more likely to commit suicide;
* 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; and
* Many LGBT youth feel scared of accessing homelessness accommodation for fear of sexual attack and/or bullying.
** Sources: Homelessness: A silent killer (December 2011, Crisis), The unhealthy state of homelessness – health audit results 2014 (Homeless Link) and LGBT Youth 2016.
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Simon Community Scotland contact details…
Contact: Lorraine McGrath