Guest Blog: Alasdair Bennett, Bethany Christian Trust
Bethany Care Shelter fixed venue
New raised beds and comfy mattresses! New fixed 32 week venue! We are so thankful to be at Diadem, part of Gorgie Dalry Stenhouse Church in Edinburgh. Our larger single venue also has laundry, showers and new toilet facilities. This is desperately needed with over 70 people a night given shelter, a two course hot meal and access to a host of partner agencies to help with longer term health and wellbeing needs. We work with the church to show Christian love in action through saving lives night after night. It is deeply humbling.
One of our recent guests said:
“I think the beds are glorious. We were already really well looked after before, but they are a luxury now and very homely. It’s nice after being out for 14 hours to have something comfortable to come home to.”
At Bethany, we are passionate about homelessness prevention and we operate a host of interventions and support services across Scotland. We are also fully committed to providing housing and support across multiple local authorities to sustain people in their own tenancies.
However there is a crisis, local and national, in relation to the number of people who are out in the harsh elements night after night. That’s why we are also determined to provide crisis intervention to meet both the immediate and long term needs of homeless and vulnerable people.
Rough sleeping is the most extreme form of homelessness. It represents people living on the street, sleeping in the open air, in parks, cemeteries, or any other place not meant for human habitation. Sleeping rough is a dangerous and traumatising experience. Many people who sleep rough suffer from multiple health conditions and have experienced extreme disadvantage in their lives.
Within the Care Shelter we provide people who would otherwise be rough sleeping with a place to go for the night where they can find shelter, a hot nutritious meal and a warm place to sleep. Started in Edinburgh in 1996 with a two week pilot over Christmas, it has grown in response to presenting need over the years, now spanning 32 weeks of the year, from September until May. To date, the Care Shelter has provided over 91,000 bed spaces.
Support for the shelter
The Care Shelter is currently operated by a team of 14 professional support staff and relies on around 1,000 volunteers from 75 churches across the Lothians. It has been a lifeline for many people over the years, with funding from trusts and foundations, individuals, local churches, companies and communities, as well as from the Caring Christmas Trees project.
Ending homelessness together
This year a grant from the Scottish Government of £50,000 has enabled us to increase our support and bed-space capacity to provide emergency care and shelter for up to 75 people. This grant has been so timely, as we have regularly been accommodating over 70 guests each night.
Our focus is to assist people to move beyond their immediate emergency circumstances and the Care Shelter has developed extensive partnerships over the years. The following agencies attend the project regularly in either the mornings or evenings to provide direct support for people accessing the service, or provide a clear referral pathway:
- Edinburgh Access Practice
- Shelter Scotland
- Rock Trust
- Crisis Skylight
- Police Scotland
- The Big Issue
- Qualified dentists
- NHS GPs
- Bethany’s wider services
Since opening in September we have supported over 570 people in moving on from needing to access the Care Shelter. 213 of those people stayed with us for only one night, and another 210 stayed for 7 nights or less. The total number of people supported this season is 653 – so far.
The partnership approach combined with the professional Care Shelter support staff, who work tirelessly and compassionately on behalf of others, results in this positive move on journey for our guests.
We also enjoy huge support from the public and we want to thank every supporter, donor and partner for their contributions and the joint working that enables this life saving project.
As this guest says, the Care Shelter is a lifeline:
“At the end of the day I’d be dead if it wasn’t for the Care Shelter, I’d have frozen. And now to also have beds instead of mattresses on the floor makes it a lot more comfortable.”
The Scottish Government is working with third sector and local authority partners on a range of activities to safeguard people at risk of rough sleeping this winter and provide support for their longer term needs. This includes an investment of £393,700 on Winter Actions in 2018-19, from the £50 million Ending Homelessness Together Fund which is supporting delivery of the Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan published in November 2018.
By Alasdair Bennett, CEO of Bethany Christian Trust.