Begging in Glasgow

To give or not to give? That is the question.

Over the last two years many Cities in Scotland have experienced an increase in begging with a number of Councils wishing to make begging illegal in their city. Aberdeen, Perth, Edinburgh and Glasgow have all raised concerns. Begging is not illegal unless it is aggressive and then the Police can act upon those behaviours.

On an average day in Glasgow there are between 60 and 80 people begging on the streets. Our Street Team connect with people who are begging on  daily basis with about 15 to 25 known to be rough sleeping (numbers frequently vary). The majority of the people begging in the city have accommodation and of the many people we support across our services very few people ever resort to begging.

The question about whether or not to give money to people begging is a personal choice. Some argue that giving money can be disabling and harmful to people, even causing their death. For others it’s about recognising and responding to a desperate situation that people in our community find themselves in.


Some homeless charities estimate as much as 80% of the people begging use the money to buy drugs or alcohol. The use of drugs and alcohol have a huge impact on people’s health and giving money to beggars may do more harm than good and can actually cause their death. Our experience in Glasgow suggests that three quarters of the indigenous population that are begging are funding an alcohol or drug addiction.

Some homeless charities have long experience and evidence of the harm that alcohol and drugs causes and see people giving money as a cause of this. People who sleep rough don’t live long and have an average life expectancy of 47. Drugs and alcohol plays its part in reducing people’s lives.

Not all beggars are homeless and not all homeless people beg. In Glasgow we estimate less than 30% of beggars don’t have accommodation.

People can spend a large amount of time begging on the street which may mean they spend less time engaging in support and connecting with homelessness staff. There are a number of services in Glasgow that provide shelter, food, clothing and support. None provide alcohol or drugs.

Some begging in Glasgow is organised and some of the people begging may be doing so under coercion.

In the last year our Street Team has come across people without shoes or jackets begging in some pretty awful weather. We have supplied good winter boots and warm jackets only to find the person without these items when we return. For some begging without shoes and coats may generate greater donations.

Some argue that begging and rough sleeping in the City damages tourism, trade and the reputation of the City.


Scotland has a huge heart and that compassion for the most disadvantaged in our community is something we’re in awe of every day. Many people want to help and often spend time chatting with people begging and giving food and drink. For some of those people on the street that acknowledgement from people who care is hugely reaffirming in a world where most of the time they are invisible.

Begging is a pretty miserable occupation and whilst there is a lot of compassion there is quite a bit of abuse too. Generally speaking not many of us would wish to spend our days sitting in the streets hoping for money so people do it because they have a need. It’s not really a lifestyle choice.

People beg to meet a need and if they can’t receive money from begging it may mean they turn to petty crime or prostitution to fund that need though there is no evidence to support this.

Income from begging can average £60 to £120 a day. Towards Christmas we heard estimates of around £200 per day. For some that is the only income they have and does provide for their basic needs. There are a few people who travel from outside the City to beg and their stories are not always what they seem however they are in our experience very few in number.

Our experience suggests that the majority of people begging are respectful, in need and grateful for assistance. We have found few examples of aggressive begging.

On a number of occasion we have encountered people who’ve effectively landed in Glasgow with nothing who are genuinely trying to raise money to get home. Our Street team has a budget funded through donations to support people to get home safely, comfortably and quickly. You can call our Street Team on the Freephone number below.

If you’re really not sure about giving then perhaps offer a coffee or a sandwich. Most people would welcome this assistance though some may say they would prefer cash.

Charities in Scotland

There are a number of charities in Glasgow and across Scotland that provide support and will provide shelter, food, warm showers, clothing and advice. There are lots of opportunities to volunteer, donate goods, help raise money and make donations.

Supporting the Glasgow Street Team

Our Street Team work on the streets 7 days a week offering help and support to people rough sleeping and begging in the city. If you want to help there are ways you can donate money, items or volunteer. In Glasgow our Street Team will pay for Hotel accommodation to get people off the street, we’ll arrange clothes, food, showers and assistance in getting accommodation.

For some people Home is a Journey and we provide a service that supports people to get home safely, comfortably and with dignity. Last year we supported people home to Dublin, Manchester, Dubrovnik, Milan and even Paisley. We’ll also work with our counterpart homeless charities to arrange support when they get home.

The Team works 7 days a week and you can contact them on our Freephone number if you have a concern about someone rough sleeping on 0800 027 7466.

Media Release: Kind-hearted Scots urged to assist appeal – today!



The venues are at 24 Rosyth Road, Shawfield, and The Barn Youth Centre, 37 Abbotsford Place, Gorbals. Donations are being accepted during this afternoon.

The charity has produced a promotional video, starring the comedian, writer and actor, Moray Hunter.

Said Hunter:

“Sometimes, I can’t face taking the dog out for a walk when the weather’s a bit rough, so I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to be out there all the time.

“Please help those living on the streets by supporting the Simon Community Rucksack and Handbag Appeal.”

Simon Community Scotland delivers around 170,000 hours of support every year and engages with up to 3,000 people at risk of or experiencing homelessness. It also operates eight residential facilities, including in North Ayrshire and North Lanarkshire.

In Glasgow alone, its ‘Street Team’ works with around 150 rough sleepers every month, with up to 40 new cases each month.

Added Hugh Hill, director of Services at Simon Community Scotland:

“Rough sleeping is bad for your physical and mental health; it’s unsafe, it’s risky and it’s scary.

“With winter beginning to bite, it just gets worse. We need donations and support.”

On The Streets of Our City

Homelessness can happen to anyone, and I mean anyone, and at this time of year, when the temperatures fall below freezing it’s really heart rending to think that so many people are sleeping out on our streets.  I had the opportunity to spend some time with the Simon Community’s Street Outreach service on Wednesday to see at first hand some of the issues homeless people are facing and also the range of support and real compassion shown by the Simon Community’s staff.

I meet up with Donna Finlayson and Brian Roberts at the Simon Community Hub on London Road to get a quick briefing about the Street Outreach RSVP (Rough Sleepers and Vulnerable Person’s) Service they provide before heading out to join them on their route around the city centre.  Brian is one of the key workers providing the RSVP service and quickly showed how knowledgeable he is about homelessness and the issues people are facing.  Brian makes a point of doing his best to get to know people and make sure that they know what services are available – whether that’s in a hour’s time when they can call someone to bring them a warm sleeping bag to an agreed place, to tomorrow, when support can be giving to make an application for accommodation, provide advice or arrange to see a Dr.

The first person we met had just been told that no accommodation was available for him in the city that night.  That means that he would have to be out on the streets.  A recent relationship breakdown and longer term issues from the past have made this young man isolated and homeless and Brian did his best to offer support to someone who was very clearly despondent and frustrated at his situation.  Brian gave him the number to call for the sleeping bag service later that night and said that he would aim to follow up and support him with his attempt to gain some at least temporary accommodation via the local authority.

After crossing the river and in an area a stone’s through from bustling Argyle Street, Brian took me to see a place where quite a number of rough sleepers will seek shelter for the night.  Through a dark car park and behind the cladding of a large building was a narrow open space with a small concrete platform area stretching back into the pitch black.  The whole place was filled by litter and filth but it is sheltered from the worst that Glasgow weather can bring and offer relative safety from the open street.  It’s pretty desperate to be calling such a place “shelter” and “safety” but that’s the shocking reality.

Before continuing on the street patrol with Brian and Donna we made a flying visit to our friends at Glasgow City Mission whose staff and volunteers were getting things ready for the evening drop in service which provides a hot evening meal five nights a week to people affected by homelessness.  In fact this service will be benefitting from the funds raised by the Rangers Charity Foundation’s recent Big Ibrox Sleep Out event.  At least 80 people were expected to turn up that night for some hot food and a safe environment for a couple of hours where friendly volunteers can ensure that everyone is made to feel welcome and has the opportunity to speak to someone.

We set out on a criss cross route from Argyle Street to Sauchiehall Street via Buchanan Street and parts of the Merchant City and met around 15 people either begging or trying to keep warm in their sleeping bags in unused shop doorways.  There was a real range of people and the issues they are facing.  Brian said that many had severe mental health issues, including one who had tried to jump off a bridge over the Clyde just two weeks ago.  Another had been released from a secure mental health ward and then found themselves immediately homeless and on the streets again.  A number of the young people we met were also using heroin and begging to help feed this habit.  I asked Brian if it was good to give money to people begging in the city centre and he said he tried to keep an open mind and that it was up to the individual what they decided to do.  Clearly some people are begging to maintain their drug addiction and giving money can only help sustain this.  It’s not only money you can give though, a few minutes friendly conversation may be the only time that day that someone has taken the time to speak to someone who is homeless, an offer to buy some food might be very welcome or a warm hat or pair of gloves to someone who clearly has none.  It’s a personal choice whether to stop and engage with someone who asks for money or even when they don’t.  Tonight’s experience has certainly made me feel that I will stop and chat with someone more often and see if there is something I can buy to brighten their day in some way.

Not everyone wants help.  We met two men who had been sleeping rough for months.  They had their spot outside a disused shop and they showed no inclination to actively seek the support that might lead to a longer term accommodation solution.  No one could describe their situation as comfortable but in Brian’s line of work, everyone has to be respected, everyone has different issues that lead them to being homeless and the main thing is to keep gently offering support and services, and respecting people as individuals.

After two hours we started heading back to the Simon Community’s Hub.  On the way, Brian stopped to chat to a young man and provide some clean needles to him to help keep him safe, at least in the short term, from the transfer of disease from shared/dirty needle use.  We also met a woman who had previously been homeless and now had some secure accommodation and who was out on a freezing night like this in an area known for prostitution.  Brian explained to me that there are a number of support services available for this woman and that he hoped that sometime in the future this may be a positive option and choice to help her.

Safely back at the Hub I thanked Brian for allowing me to join him on his normal Street Outreach patrol of the city centre.  I was really impressed by the Simon Community’s work and the by the compassion and professionalism shown by their staff.  My insight to homelessness on a freezing cold November night in Glasgow was just a few hours long, but long enough to make me consider homelessness in a fresh light, to hopefully encourage me to stop to chat to someone much more often and to definitely feel confident that the Rangers Charity Foundation is doing something profoundly worthwhile in supporting the Simon Community.

Media Release: Sunday Herald Christmas Appeal for Simon Community Scotland

Media Release 27th November 16

LIFE on the street it brutal. And short. The average life expectancy of someone living there is just 44. Rough sleeping kills people. Seeing people sleeping in a doorway or down a lane is the most common image of homelessness – but it takes many forms. It might be rough sleeping, but it might, equally, be sleeping on a friend’s sofa, with nothing immediately on the horizon, when it comes to a place to call home. The issues are headline-grabbing and the statistics horrifying. A homeless person is 13 times more likely 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. For the full article please follow this link:

Media Release: Not one but two reasons for Simon Community Scotland to celebrate

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.

Visit, and


Glasgow Bike Station becomes a Friend of the Street Team

Greg Chauvet Managing Director of the Glasgow Bike Station met with our CEO today to register their commitment to helping vulnerable people in the city by becoming a Friend of the Street Team.

The scheme asks businesses, shops and organisations to support the efforts of our Street Team by sharing information on the work of the Simon Community, raising awareness of the help that’s available and having contact cards and details onsite for customers who may be concerned about someone but not sure how to help.

Our Street Team work 24/7 supporting rough sleeper and people who are homeless to find somewhere safe off the Street and can be contacted on 0800 027 7466.

The Glasgow Bike Station first came in to being in 2010 at the Barras in Glasgow. Founder and Social Entrepreneur of the year 2105, Greg Chauvet, left a corporate business world (and the French Rivera), disillusioned by the greed and poor treatment of employees to set up a social enterprise that was connected, was fair and looked after people – not only staff and volunteers, but the health and wellbeing of everyone who takes to cycling.

It was his own experience of learning to cycle as an adult and the negative reactions he encountered in Glasgow that prompted him to do something about supporting cycling.

Today the Bike Station goes from strength to strength and as well as selling and refurbishing second hand bikes the Bike Station also delivers multiple socially inspired programmes to teach, train, promote and introduce cycling to Glaswegians.

Media Release Launching Nightstop in Glasgow

Call issued for spare rooms to provide sanctuary for young people

Media Release 11 September 2016

YOUNG people in Glasgow facing the prospect of sleeping rough on the streets are to be provided an emergency bed for the night – in a volunteer’s home rather than in a homelessness hostel.

The homeless charity, Simon Community Scotland – which is, this month, marking its 50th anniversary – has received funding from the Big Lottery Fund to set up a network of beds in people’s spare rooms, throughout Glasgow.

Says the homelessness charity, a young person will be able to stay in their own private room, with a welcoming volunteer host – for up to three nights.

The hope is that, during that time, Simon Community Scotland staff can then assist the young person to find a more long-term solution to what has taken them to the brink of homelessness.

Funding for the ‘nightstop’ service is also being provided by the Rangers Charity Foundation.

Last year, it was announced that Simon Community Scotland would be one of seven charities to be supported by the Rangers Charity Foundation.

In November, the foundation is staging a series of ‘sleep outs’ at Rangers’ football ground, Ibrox, to raise funds, while the Big Lottery Fund is providing £150,000 towards making the nightstop service a reality.

We are looking for Nightstop hosts in Glasgow. For more information visit:

For more about Nightstop across the UK go to:

Unique Homelessness City Partnership up for an award

The City Ambition Network (CAN), team has been nominated for the Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership’s Facing the Future Together Awards specifically in the “Our Culture: The way we work together” category.

The CAN is a partnership of the Simon Community, Glasgow City Mission, The Marie Trust and Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership. The CAN is focused on some of the City’s most vulnerable and excluded homeless people working creatively to stick with people through the most challenging of lives journeys.

The initiative is not only a close collaboration between agencies but between senior staff, front-line workers and service users. The challenge is to transform expectations and the lives of those people where hope is in short supply. Announcement of category winners will be on Tuesday 20 September.

Media Release: Hoping 50th birthday will spark a chain reaction

Hoping 50th birthday will spark a chain reaction

MEDIA RELEASE 1 September 2016

Simon Community Scotland today launched the start of its 50th anniversary, by hosting a media event at the Glasgow outlet of a bicycle recycling workshop, which has been providing service users the opportunity to build their own bike, learn news skills and develop their self-confidence.

The homelessness charity – which is hoping the anniversary will result in a surge of volunteers – delivers around 170,000 hours of support every year and engages with up to 3,000 people at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness.

In particular, it seeks to reach rough sleepers in Glasgow, and its Street Team sees around 150 people on the streets every month, with up to 40 new cases each month.

The collaboration with The Bike Station is an illustration of the charity’s ethos of finding solutions that are individually-tailored.

Says 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.

“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.

The Bike Station initiative was established by Hugh Hill, director of services and development at Simon Community Scotland, and The Bike Station project manager, Victoria Leiper. Hugh Hill said:

“This collaboration with the Bike Station is an example of our work in action: it’s about providing people the chance to learn a new skill, improving self-confidence and providing a means of transport; for instance, for job interviews.

Carolanne Boyle, aged 43, first became homeless during her early 20s, following a relationship breakdown. She has been homeless, on and off these last 20 years or so, but is now benefitting from the support of Simon Community Scotland in various guises, including gardening in a local allotment.

She said:

“I never imagined myself being able to build a bike, from scratch, but here I am.

“The bike is built, it’s helping me keep fit and I’m cycling every day. It’s really helping me turn my life around.

“I am now starting to get my weight sorted. With Simon Community Scotland, I’m doing so much, it’s really constructive.

Several events are schedule this month to mark the Simon Community Scotland’s birthday, the highlight being a ‘shindig’, on the 29th, involving service users, staff, volunteers and partner organisations.

Says Victoria Leiper, project manager at The Bike Station:

“The build-your-own bike courses are not just about bike building but also cover key skills such as route planning and safe on-road cycling – including going out on the roads.

“By the end of the course, the ladies not only have a bike to get them from A to B but the skills and confidence to cycle as a mode of travel.

“The partnership we have with Simon Community Scotland is all about providing opportunities for people that make a difference to their day-to-day lives – we are a great fit and are thrilled to be working with such a worthwhile and established organisation.


Cycle for Simon

Simon Community go green with the arrival of 26 brand new bikes. Every location across our organisation will have two bikes for staff and service users to use for leisure and for business.

Lorraine McGrath CEO said

“We’ve long been committed to reducing our carbon footprint and supporting a healthy workforce. These new additions will help us cut our car journeys get around Glasgow faster and have some fun at the same time.”

All the bikes will be delivered by the end of the month and come just as we received Scotland’s Cycle Friendly Award.