Yet again we’ve been astounded by the outpouring of compassion shown towards people battling with homelessness as the so called ‘Beast from the East’ unleashes it's fury.
As the snow piled up yesterday, countless people have posted words of encouragement on our facebook and twitter pages or telephoned our office asking how they can help.
Below is a quick summary of answers to some of these questions:
Q. What should I do if I see someone homeless in Glasgow?
Say hello. Often people feel ignored and worthless. Don’t underestimate the power of simply acknowledging someone.
Ask the person is there anything you can do for them? People have different needs and others may not want any help – take the time to listen.
Make them aware of the help available in the city. Our City Centre project is at Crimea Street, just off Argyle Street between Central Station and the Kingston Bridge. We’re open each weekday from 10am to 10pm and Saturdays 4pm to 8pm. There’s always someone available to have a chat with plus food, showers, computers and a wide range of activities.
The Glasgow Winter Night Shelter also operates seven nights a week and opens at 10pm. The night shelter provides temporary, emergency accommodation for rough sleepers plus connections to healthcare, housing and other support services in the city. It’s located at East Campbell Street inside the building of the Lodging House Mission, another day centre in the city where people can come to for help, and near the Barrowlands Ballroom.
The Marie Trust and Wayside also operate a day centre at Midland Street whilst the Simon Community have a Hub on London Road for help, advice and needle exchange.
If you are concerned about someone, call the Simon Community’s Street Team on 0800 027 7466, lines open 24/7. The team patrol the city centre streets daily, checking on people and connecting people to help available.
Q. Why do people become homeless?
Relationship breakdown is the biggest cause of homelessness. This can sometimes lead to addiction issues or a decline in mental health. Significant trauma such as childhood abuse or chaotic family backgrounds also play significant roles.
Q. How many people are homeless in Glasgow?
There are approximately twenty to forty people who sleep rough in the city (street homelessness). There are many others who are on the streets who beg but have accommodation. An important distinction needs to be made that not everyone who sleeps on the street is begging, and not everyone who begs is homeless.
There are however thousands more who are homeless in the city but are in temporary accommodation. More than five and half thousand people made an application to Glasgow City Council for homeless accommodation. If their application is succesful, they are placed in temporary homeless hostels, B&Bs and temporary furnished flats.
Q. How can I help?
To help people who are rough sleeping, see ‘what do I do if I see someone homeless’ above.
People who are homeless but have a temporary roof over their head can have complex needs and there is no 'one size fits' all solution. Shortage of suitable accommodation in the city coupled with a shortage of tailored means there are seldom quick fixes, particulalry for people with complex needs.
Glasgow City Mission has announced a new Housing First accommodation model and we hope to have our first tenant housed very shortly. We also work very closely with other charities, the Health & Social Care Partnership, and other organisations to fight for solutions for people who are homeless.
Many of our guests have very low self-esteem and low confidence as a result of their experiences, and have a lack of hope towards their future. People are often very socially isolated too. To counter this, Glasgow City Mission provides a range of services designed to tackle these issues and rebuild people’s confidence and help them discover and develop their skills. We have a range of clubs, classes and activities where people can grow in their confidence, re-establish social skills and rediscover their self-worth. As a Christian charity, we believe everyone has talents and gifts and can find purpose in this life. For those that wish to explore the Christian faith, there are opportunities to do just that or have a staff member pray with them.
We also provide lots of opportunities to build relationships – between guests and with our staff and volunteer teams – and also work to reintegrate people with their families and communities.
Because only a small number of people in the city sleep on the streets, we don’t require lots of bedding or clothing. What we do need are people who can stand with us to support men and women all year round, help them transition from temporary accommodation to their own tenancy, and help them to rebuild their lives. To stand with us in this way, you might like to pray, give financially, fundraise for us, take part in our events, or volunteer.
Q. Do people choose to sleep rough?
Q. Can we not open up empty buildings to get people out the cold?
See our previous blog article, Nov 2015. Once again, the number of rough sleepers in the city is relatively low – it is still too many – but there is enough provision within the Glasgow Winter Night Shelter. It’s also important that services and support are joined up and forward-focused.
Q. Tell me more about the Glasgow Winter Night Shelter
Q. ‘You must be really busy when the weather is like this?’
The sad reality is that we are busy all year round, regardless of what the weather is like. Homelessness does not take account of the seasons. We, like all charities, need support all year round to be able to deliver vital services.
We are incredibly indebted to our supporters and the wider public for their incredible desire to help. It is times like these where we see our city at its best when ordinary members of the public enable extraordinary things to take place, where charities and community groups along with vital public services pull out the stops to provide care for those most in need.