Category Archives: Inspiring Stories

Inspiring Stories from Simon Community Scotland

A fantastic initiative and a much needed resource centre for people experiencing homelessness in Glasgow

We’re very lucky to have amazing Simon Community Scotland ambassadors who are passionate about the work we do and will support us in any way they can. Lorraine McIntosh and Ricky Ross from Deacon Blue officially opened the Access Hub at the end of September. 

After cutting the ribbon Lorraine made a short speech which really hit home with all of us “It’s a real privilege and a great honour for Ricky and I to be here to celebrate the opening of the Access Hub. This Hub is a fantastic initiative from Simon Community Scotland and a much needed resource centre for people experiencing homelessness in Glasgow.

Living in Glasgow I, and most folk I know, have been saddened and frustrated at the amount of people who seemed to have nowhere to call home but the streets of our city.

This Access Hub is the latest step in not only improving figures for homelessness but for eradicating it

Homelessness, as I’m sure you all know, is a complex issue which has a devastating impact on those who experience it. Working as ambassadors with Simon Community over the last year or so we have both been amazed and encouraged by the work we’ve witnessed. This Access Hub is the latest step in not only improving figures for homelessness but for eradicating it.”

Lorraine continued “It’s taken several years and a huge commitment, but today the people of Glasgow can celebrate some good news and be proud that, here, our most needy citizens can access help and support by walking in off the street. Here there is everything from legal advice, monthly sessions with the DWP, health care for not only themselves but their beloved dogs, counselling, story telling…the list is long and impressive.

Interior of the Access Hub

The people of Glasgow can celebrate some good news and be proud that, here, our most needy citizens can access help and support by walking in off the street

Living through these difficult times when all our lives have been affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic, it has been amazing to see that when it comes to solving the problem of homelessness, where there’s a will there’s a way. During this time rough sleeping in Glasgow has almost disappeared. Our challenge now is to make it a priority that these people are not forgotten about and that their right to a safe place to live is not ignored.

We all know the way we treat the most vulnerable amongst us says something about who we are as a society and the creation of this Hub says we want homelessness in our city to be a thing of the past. The Access Hub is an important step forward in making that a reality.

So, thank you to everyone who has worked to get us here today and thank you all for coming. This is a place we should all be very proud to have in our city.”

Lorraine MacIntosh and Ricky Ross from Deacon Blue inside the Access Hub
The people we met during the COVID-19 lockdown

We’re marking World Homelessness Day 2020 by introducing you to some people we met during the COVID-19 lockdown

World Homelessness Day was born when aid workers from around the world started talking about people experiencing homelessness in their countries – with an emphasis on giving hands-on aid that was sensitive to local needs, while being aware of the global problem.

Today, we want to help raise awareness in our own community by sharing our Homeless in COVID photography project and introducing you to some of the people we met during lockdown.

Pawel from Poland
Pawel from Poland

The Homeless in COVID project came into being when professional photographer Iain McLean started volunteering with us at our Warehouse in April. Iain wanted to work with a charity during the COVID-19 pandemic to show the work they were doing. This turned into a set of photographs showing the people we work with, with the intention of challenging the common perception of homelessness.

Iain told us “Simon Community Scotland were fairly local to me and I was already aware of them and the work they do, so I contacted Hugh Hill (Director of Services and Development) and put my idea to him. Happily he agreed – in my experience it is rare to be given the opportunity to work with an organisation who encourage you to pursue a creative idea. A refreshing experience! 

I initially did some volunteering in the warehouse – sorting clothes and helping load and unload food deliveries – all the while taking some casual portraits and recording the events. This seemed to go well. We then visited the Ibis Hotel where I met more Simon Community staff and had a look around. Once I’d established some good relationships I was then given access to other services to meet and photograph both staff and service users.”

Catherine from Scotland
Catherine from Scotland

Iain began to build up a bank of images to demonstrate the work of SCS but alongside this he started work on the project that became Homeless in COVID. Iain worked to gain the trust and consent of everyone he photographed and found that his perception of people who experience homelessness was being challenged – the more people he met, the more he realised that anyone could be affected. It was really just down to circumstance. 

He told us that “I had never worked with people experiencing homelessness before but it was a profound and moving experience. My expectations were probably the same as most people’s, namely that I’d be meeting down-at-heel people with substance and/or mental health problems. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’ve met travellers, religious people, immigrants, refugees, professional people, young and old, all races and genders. Many of them victims of circumstance.”

Iain wanted to create a set of portraits challenging the common perception of what someone experiencing homeless should look like. As well as the portraits, items were photographed in the hand of the sitter, with the hand being a metaphor for hope and openness as well as being symbolic of the COVID crisis – hand cleanliness etc. 

Mohamed from Morocco
Mohamed from Morocco

Iain said “I felt the portraits needed more than just a short explanation of the person and their circumstances so used the idea of ‘comfort’ during this troubled time to give the work some extra depth. The white background was a deliberate act to take the person away from any cliched location and to present them as a dignified, empowered person. A blank canvas.”

Graham from England
Graham from England

Our service users were delighted when they saw their images, both on the camera and in print. Most kept their print but one person asked Iain to send it to his mother in the South of England “I can’t express how happy I was to receive the photos of my son. It was so kind of you to go to the trouble of sending them. I was greatly relieved to see him looking both well and well turned out and I must say in good spirits too. I was glad to get your positive observations of my son. Thank you so much for your kindness.”

We were so pleased to be able to exhibit Iain’s photos as we launched our new multi-agency Access Hub in Glasgow. This new innovative service – in a beautiful, custom-designed venue – is all about making it much easier for people to get the support they need. To mark the occasion we also produced a newspaper featuring the portraits and some of the stories behind them.

See what you think of Iain’s project and the newspaper we created.

Photography by Iain McLean.

A snapshot from lockdown

It’s hard to sum up what’s happened over the last four months. To explain the stories we heard and the smiles we saw.

They do say ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ so we’ve tried to share just a few of our highlights below… 

Thanks to all you #LockdownLegends who made it all possible!

A snapshot of the stories we heard and smiles we saw during lockdown
Thank you for supporting us through the COVID-19 pandemic.

#GiveHope: How you supported over 2,500 people during lockdown

Your support is transforming people’s lives

On the 23rd March 2020 Scotland went into lockdown. The COVID-19 pandemic presented everyone with one of the greatest challenges we’ve ever faced.

For people experiencing homelessness the challenge was even greater. 

Having nowhere to self-isolate meant more risk of becoming ill with the virus or spreading it. The services people relied on disappeared – places people would go for food and clothes closed, along with shower and laundry facilities. The social interactions people took comfort from had to stop. 

You helped changed the desperate situation for so many people experiencing homelessness. Here’s the amazing story that you played a part in. 

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