Media Release: Charity’s 50th anniversary a reason to toast transformations in people’s lives


To attend – in a reporting, photography or broadcasting capacity – please contact Lyndsey Wilson, communications assistant at Simon Community Scotland, on 0141 418 6982. For pictures from the event, contact Alex Woodward, on 0773 230 4716.

HOMELESSNESS is never a reason to celebrate, but being able to put homelessness behind you most certainly can be.

Today – Thursday September 29 2016 – the homelessness charity, Simon Community Scotland, will be marking its 50th anniversary by welcoming both current and former service users to what is being described as a ‘festival of community’.

Making a special guest appearance will be the widow of the late founder of the Simon Community, which was launched initially in London.

And MT Gibson-Watt will be joined by, among others, Eddie Lynas, who says it was among the best things he has ever done, contacting the Simon Community Scotland four years ago.

Eddie is now a volunteer with the charity. Four years ago, the former London publican found himself in temporary accommodation, in Lanarkshire – with no friends or family near by.

Says the 60 year-old: “I was so depressed, I felt completely cut-off. And I returned to the flat one night, to see a Simon Community Scotland card had been put through the letterbox. Out of courtesy, I phoned them, and it was one of the best things I have ever done.”

Life has turned around so much for Eddie, among his other interests is serving on the committee of a local football club.

Eddie’s story is typical of the many people involved with the Simon Community Scotland, which is less about campaigning and more about finding practical solutions, individually-tailored.

The 50th anniversary was first marked, at the beginning of the month, by saying thank you to one of the charity’s many partner organisations, The Bike Station, for running workshops that enable service users to build their own bikes.

A fortnight ago, it was launching an ‘Nightstop’ appeal, asking the people of Glasgow to make available any spare rooms they might have, to help prevent young people, in particular, making what can be a fateful decision to sleep rough for the very first time.

Some 250 people are expected to attend the day-long celebration taking place later today – in what is expected to be a colourful and energetic mix of staff, partner organisations, volunteers, as well as service users – both past and present.

Helping to get people in the party mood, there will be various musicians (Indie, Blues, Taiko drums, Soul, Indian percussion, harp and fiddle, etc), ‘crazy’ bicycles and an display of fashion-on-a-budget.

Says chief executive of Simon Community Scotland, Lorraine McGrath: “Homelessness is not just about rough sleeping, it can take lots of different forms, such as sleeping on friends’ sofas.

“We are grateful for the media’s coverage of our various activities this month, because one of the things we are trying to do is recruit more volunteers, so we can provide even more practical solutions for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

“We want to reach more people to help them understand that homelessness can happen to anyone; however, a lot of people have journeys into chronic homelessness that begin at an early age and there are lots of ways every person in Scotland can help so that people keep their homes and find ways to recover their lives and wellbeing.

“This community festival is a celebration of the people we support and who support us and to bring some fun, laughter and a sense of belonging – to make some positive memories within the bleak experience of homelessness.”

Gibson-Watt is a trustee of the original Simon Community, founded by her late husband, Anton Wallich-Clifford, in 1963. She said: “The work we do is transformative; not just for the people who use our services, but it is transformative for the people who do the work as well.

“The underlying philosophy – that we all share – is about accepting people as they are, working with people as they are, creating opportunities that allow people the opportunity to see a bigger picture, to feel they have the capacity to change.”


Notes to editors:

The media is welcome to attend the event, but are asked to first contact Lyndsey Wilson, communications assistant at Simon Community Scotland, on 0141 418 6982 to confirm and to arrange any specific interviews and photo opportunities.

Both Eddie Lynas and MT Gibson-Watt will be attending the event and available for interview.

Photographs will be available from the event, by contacting Alex Woodward on 0773 230 4716.

The event is taking place Pollokshields Burgh Hall, 70 Glencairn Drive, Glasgow G41 4LL.

The media is advised to attend around 3pm and introduce themselves to either Lyndsey Wilson or Wendy Ball, communications co-ordinator, on 07710 151 732.

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