If there is one universal truth I have discovered on my travels it is that everywhere you go, people are looking for home.
When I first spent time in London in the mid to late 80’s rough sleeping had started to become quite commonplace in doorways around the west end of the city. As I got to travel the world it seemed that every major city experienced similar issues. The trouble with such a ubiquitous problem is that we react in one of two ways. The first is to accept the situation and hold our hands up in despair that such an intractable issue is nigh on impossible to solve. I have to confess that this has been my response until very recently. The second reaction is one which I’ve witnessed at close quarters from my wife, Lorraine. She remains as outraged as she has always been at the idea of people having no home. Nevertheless, this made her more determined to get involved with an organisation which worked with the homeless.
That, at least, is how we started on this journey a few years back. My old friend John Matthews, the former minister and chair of The Simon Community had nudged me to find out more and do what I could to support the charity. A few years ago we met with John and soon with Tricia Imrie who was working at the community at the time, to see at first hand the work they were doing on the streets of Glasgow and in some of the residential centres in the city.
We were impressed at the scope and depth of the care we saw on our visit and Lorraine immediately signed up to publicise the Night Stop programme which was running at the time. More importantly we learned the multi-layered needs of the vulnerable people who were being helped by the charity. Often the very term homelessness is a misleading but convenient term for people who have undergone a variety of adverse experiences leading to them needing support, welfare and advice. These needs can vary as much as the people’s stories themselves, leaving them without the support most of us take for granted in life.
So it was that the Simon Community visualised a one stop place where so many of the needs of vulnerable people could be met. Two years ago, The Glasgow Access Hub was born and Lorraine and I were delighted to be invited to open the building. It was exciting to see for ourselves the possibilities of bringing so many services together in one place. The Access Hub was a brand new facility where people could get advice on housing, addiction, employment, health and even veterinary support for beloved pets. It was also to be the centre for the outreach work by the street teams who support service users in and around the city on a daily basis.
If the opening day was inspiring, it was, for me, even better to come back last week and see The Access Hub in full swing. As I came in I was greeted by reception staff in the friendly way that all visitors are welcomed. As I walked through to meet some of the workers I was led in by a young man called Kevin who was previously a service user, and is now a volunteer, helping others. I met Owen, who was about to move into permanent accommodation of his own for the first time having spent so much of his life in and out of prison and who, with the help of the We See You Programme which started in June, is now looking for new opportunities. Owen is taking a course through City of Glasgow College and would like to move into volunteering, then on to studying for his SVQ’s to become a support worker. Using his experience to help others.
As well as advice and counselling there were haircuts being given and I visited an education class where students were working towards a qualification in volunteering. You can see me pictures with the students and teachers from City Of Glasgow College here.
My friends at The Simon Community have told me about the significant increase in numbers as the winter approaches and the cost-of-living crisis grows. If you’d like to help with this you can contribute to The Winter Crisis Appeal which you can find out about by visiting https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/wintercrisisappeal2022.
I hope you can help make this an easier time for people who rely on the support of The Simon Community.