On World Homeless Day (10 October), Simon Community Scotland, Scotland’s leading homeless charity, warns of an unprecedented surge in demand for their services.
Over 100 people are estimated to be rough sleeping each night in Scotland’s two biggest cities. At a recent count, where Simon Community volunteers combed city centres late at night, they located and supported 80 people sleeping rough in Edinburgh, and 35 people in Glasgow, with this single evening snapshot reflecting the scale of the challenge faced by the charity. This number also does not include those housed in emergency shelters or temporary accommodation. Driven by the cost of living crisis, the charity reports that the number of people rough sleeping in Scotland is continuing to spiral, with no end in sight.
Simon Community has witnessed a nearly 20% increase in people seeking their help, placing a huge demand on their frontline support team. In September alone, at Simon Community Scotland’s Glasgow Access Hub – one of their two hubs across Scotland – the team handled over 2,000 support requests, including helping people with accommodation needs, benefits, legal and financial advice, and wellbeing challenges.
Siobhan Paige, Service Lead at Simon Community Scotland’s Glasgow Access Hub on Argyle Street, said: “Our team saved dozens of lives last winter. If you’ve been out at night in Glasgow or Edinburgh, you’ll have seen our Street teams with their purple backpacks helping those facing a night sleeping rough. We supported hundreds of people through some very dark times. This winter is set to be even darker. It’s only October and our frontline teams are almost overwhelmed with demand for support.”
To help cope with increased demand, the charity is today launching an emergency appeal titled ‘A Safe Place’, reflecting how the provision of safe places is crucial to helping people facing homelessness.
The charity provides end-to-end support, including street teams on the front line, who build relationships and direct people to further support, right through to Simon Community owned properties, which give people a permanent tenancy.
Simon Community Scotland are looking to raise £200,000 with this emergency appeal, with funds directed to their safe places, including community hubs, street teams and accommodation, as well as basic life essentials for people they support, including; warm winter clothing, food parcels and toiletries.
Lorraine McGrath, CEO for Simon Community Scotland, said: “The number of people our frontline teams are supporting is reaching record levels, again. Last year we helped over 8,000 people and this year we are set to support over 9,500. We’re doing our very best to provide people with a safe place to access support and keep people safe from harm. But we are very stretched and desperately need more help. Whether you can support us as an organisation or as an individual, please consider supporting Simon Community Scotland’s ‘A Safe Place’ appeal.”
Ashley Young, Head of Services in Glasgow, said: “Safe places for people experiencing homelessness have never been more important. Having a safe place to call home has such a profound impact on our physical and mental health. Unfortunately many of the people we support don’t have this safe place. In our hubs, emergency and supported accommodation services we can provide a safe place for people to talk, to listen, to heal, to build trust, to be. Safe places for a few moments, or for years.”
The charity has support hubs, street teams, accommodation and helplines across Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth and North Lanarkshire, employing 275 staff and a team of 100 volunteers.
This winter, Simon Community Scotland are increasing their efforts and are calling on the public to help prevent more casualties from homelessness.
Lorraine McGrath, CEO, said: “If you see someone you are concerned about, please call our freephone in Edinburgh & Glasgow. If you can, please consider making a donation to our ‘A Safe Place’ appeal.”
The latest warning from Simon Community Scotland follows the release of the Scottish Government 2022/23 Homelessness in Scotland statistics which highlighted that there were 39,006 applications for homelessness across the country, a 9% increase on the previous year. Over 32,000 households were assessed as being homeless, including over 16,000 children.