IT was a party with not just one reason to celebrate but two.
Homelessness charity, Simon Community Scotland, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month.
So, obviously, staff, service users and former service users in North Lanarkshire wanted to mark the occasion, everyone lending a hand to make sure a good time would be had by all.
But there was a second reason for people to raise a glass in honour of the charity, as Simon Community Scotland has only recently taken over the running of emergency and more permanent accommodation – at four locations throughout North Lanarkshire. And it has certainly been a case of it being a smooth, successful transition.
Until April, Simon Community Scotland operated only an outreach team in North Lanarkshire, with ten members of staff supporting people at risk of homelessness or just beginning to put homelessness behind them.
Homelessness is mostly about people living in uncertain accommodation, such as with a friend or in a short-term tenancy.
But in April, it won a tender – from the local authority – to manage the accommodation also.
With winning the tender came a new group of staff, who had worked for the previous accommodation operators.
The accommodation comprises: an eight-bed men’s unit, Black Street, Airdrie; four-bed men’s unit, Bridgeworks, Motherwell; four-bed women’s unit, Houldsworth Court, Wishaw; and eight-bed men’s unit, Mason Street, Motherwell.
Says Simon Community Scotland’s operations manager, Margaret Graham: “It’s been great seeing our new colleagues embrace, so enthusiastically, our ethos at Simon Community Scotland. We’re about providing practical solutions for people and our North Lanarkshire services are of a very high standard.”
Says staff member, Donna Rankin, who is a support worker at Black Street: “Simon Community Scotland really do have people at their heart, which is exactly what I believe in. This party is also the first time, ever, we’ve all come together, here in North Lanarkshire. It’s been a great few months, so what more reason do you need to have a party?”
The party was compered by Scots stand-up comedian, Pat Rolink.
Adds Simon Community Scotland chief executive, Lorraine McGrath: “Homelessness could happen to anyone and is as much hidden from view – such as sofa-hopping and short-term, uncertain lets – as it is visible, on our streets.
“It’s with mixed feelings that we mark our 50th birthday; but so long as there is homelessness we will be there, our ethos being about coming alongside people and finding practical solutions.”
The charity – which is hoping its 50th anniversary will result in a surge of volunteers – delivers, nationwide, around 170,000 hours of support every year and engages with up to 3,000 people at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness.
Continues McGrath: “We are certainly using this 50th birthday to recruit more volunteers and we are fortunate to have secured funding to employ a dedicated volunteering manager.
“Our approach involves spending a lot of time. If you are going to be there for someone – helping carry the burden, for the journey – then you need to have not just a sympathetic ear, but the time. Volunteers can help us achieve that.
“Many of our volunteers are former service users and this 50th anniversary is also a chance to acknowledge how vital they are to us, plus our staff and other friends and supporters.”
Notes to editors:
Lorraine McGrath, chief executive of Simon Scotland, is available for interview and also to write agenda, platform, open space-type 700-word articles, to coincide with SCS’s 50th birthday.
To arrange an interview, etc, contact Lyndsey Wilson, communications assistant at Simon Community Scotland, on 0141 418 6982.
A couple of key dates during this 50th birthday month:
* September 27 – 472 Ballater Street, Glasgow – showcasing a specially-commissioned mural, by the artist, EJEK.
* September 29 – Glasgow – Shindig – celebration of staff, current and former service users, volunteers and partner organisations.
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.