Media release: Books to bring space and solace for capital’s rough sleepers


SCOTS novelist, Ian Rankin, is to be joined by First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, in supporting a scheme that sees books being distributed to people who are rough sleeping, in Edinburgh.

The Inspector Rebus creator is backing an initiative adopted by local homelessness charity, Streetwork, which includes literacy classes and a network of outlets offering free books.

‘Streetreads’ will also see books being handed out to people on the streets and in emergency accommodation, recognising that a book can provide a place of space and solace.

An official celebration at the Storytelling Centre, in Edinburgh, will coincide with a call out to well-known individuals in the literary world, to become ambassadors. Plus to the general public, to help hand out books, co-ordinate their collection and fundraise.

Streetreads is the brainchild of local woman, Rachel Cowan (aka #bookwumman), who started it after she got to know a homeless person who was a keen reader.

She said: “The impact a book can have on a homeless reader is huge. Our books are given as a gift and are in excellent or even new condition so our readers know they are getting a present which is given with respect and love.”

Said Ian Rankin: “I’ve been a long-time fan of Streetreads and have seen first-hand the great work they do. Books can transport us anywhere, to times and worlds that excite and stimulate. That’s hugely important, no matter who you are or what your circumstances.”

Lorraine McGrath, chief executive of Streetwork and its sister charity, Glasgow-based Simon Community Scotland, said: “At Streetwork, we create connections with people from every background, circumstance and organisation – supporting people into recovery and off the street.

“Stories – our own and those of others – are a great way of connecting with each other and Streetreads is a beautifully-engaging way to do this.

“For most people, reading a book is a delightful, everyday pastime. Through Streetreads, this ordinary activity is more easily available to people facing and recovering from homelessness in Edinburgh.

“We have been friends of Streetreads and Rachel for some time, loving the work she’s done in creating this amazing service.”

“We are delighted to bring this fabulous initiative to Streetwork, working with Ian Rankin and other supporters to reach further and build new exciting connections and opportunities for those we support.”

The launch is being supported by investment management firm, Baillie Gifford, which is headquartered in Edinburgh.

Sam Pattman, sponsorship manager at Baillie Gifford, said: “By giving away books to homeless readers, Streetreads ensures that – no matter what an individual’s circumstances are – reading is still a possibility. As a firm, Baillie Gifford advocates the importance of literature, which is why we are delighted to support this incredibly worthwhile initiative.”

Notes to editors

The official launch of Streetreads is taking place at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, 43-45 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1SR, on Thursday October 11, between 1400 and 1600hours.

You are invited to send a representative, by first contacting Lydia Bennett on 0131 344 0825.

Photographs from the launch are available, afterwards, via Please credit: Euan Robertson.

Attending: People with experience of homelessness and Streetwork volunteers, Ian Rankin and First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and Minister for Local Government and Planning, Kevin Stewart MSP. Plus Lorraine McGrath, CEO Streetwork and Simon Community Scotland; Rachel Cowan, creator of Streetreads; Linda Holden, chair of Streetwork; Mary Craig OBE, chair of Simon Community Scotland; Sam Pattman, sponsorship manager, Baillie Gifford; Helen Mill, executive director at The Village Storytelling Centre in Glasgow; Gavin Francis, GP and award-winning author; and other guests.

About Streetreads

Streetreads provide books, reading glasses, storytelling workshops and literacy support to people experiencing homelessness.

The initiative is supported by volunteers and welcomes involvement from anyone who wants to support this work through workshops, fundraising, book distribution or other initiatives.

A wide range of people are invited to get involved and make a difference including writers, publishers, profile raisers, optometrists, educators, creative thinkers and enthusiasts.

Streetreads outlets (contact Streetwork for opening times):

Streetwork Holyrood Hub, Holyrood Road
Streetwork on South Bridge
Soul Food at St Paul’s & St George’s Church
Soul Food at Mustard seed St Margaret’s Church
Super Saturday at Old St Paul’s Church hall
Broomhouse COSS One Stop Shop
Edinburgh NW Foodbank
Bethany creative writing group
Edinburgh Access Practice
Cunningham House hostel
Safe Haven Leith


About Streetwork

Homelessness charity, Streetwork, enables life off the street for people in Edinburgh who face extremely difficult circumstances.

Everyday, the team reach out, respond and help people resolve their homelessness so that they can recover and thrive.

Founded in 1991, Streetwork’s ‘street team’ is regularly joined by the likes of GPs and vets, to provide practical assistance to people sleeping rough (and any pets they might have).

Streetwork operates out of two premises in central Edinburgh, on South Bridge, and on Holyrood Road (a support and amenities hub for people who are homeless).

Among the facilities at the Streetwork Holyrood hub: individualised support, health services, digital skills training, employability services, washing facilities, telephones, internet access and correspondence address, etc.

The Streetwork visiting outreach team go out and meet with people in a wide range of settings including people living in hostels and temporary accommodation to build connections and positive relationships in order to support those who are most at risk of homelessness.

Streetwork is a sister charity of Simon Community Scotland, a Scottish homelessness charity based in Glasgow.

Visit, @street_work

Telephone: 0131 344 0825. Its ‘street team’ can be contacted on freephone: 0808 178 2323 or by email: by anyone who has concerns or needs advice.

MEDIA RELEASE issued by Streetwork. You too can share your stories (aka press or media releases), on this site. Email here for more information.

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Streetwork contact details…

Contact: Lorraine McGrath