Category Archives: Inspiring Stories

Inspiring Stories from Simon Community Scotland

Christmas care

Care – at Christmas and always

On behalf of everyone at Simon Community Scotland we’d like to wish you a Merry Christmas and all the very best for the New Year ahead.

Thank you so much for your support, encouragement and engagement with our work.

We’re currently running our Christmas Care Appeal to raise £30,000 to help us create individually tailored care packs for people we support into emergency, temporary or supported accommodation, or into a permanent home of their own.

To end the year we just wanted to share a couple stories about the difference our work makes to people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness.

Perhaps this message below, from a lady we are supporting, highlights how much our care packs means to people. Please support if you can.

Big changes and new friendships

“I’ve got support, I’ve got help, I’ve got a roof over my head, which I never had before. I was homeless. I didn’t know where to turn, what to do, didn’t think there was a way out. I’m now back on the housing list, I’m getting support with my addiction, I’ve met good pals in here, I feel safe, I feel secure. Things I never had in the past. For 2-3 years I went from pillar to post, sleeping on couches. Now I have got a future to look forward to. I can’t thank the Simon Community staff enough. If it wasn’t for them… I’d probably be dead.” Ian, who is living at one of our supported accommodation sites.

Ian has become friends with someone else we are supporting and their humour and banter has earned them the nicknames ‘Jack and Victor’! So we now have those characters painted on the wall of our supported accommodation garden!

Jack and Victor from Still Game, mural on the all of one of our supported accommodation services

Lastly, we’ve recently been in the news;

CEO Lorraine McGrath wrote an article for The Scotsman about our work through the pandemic, our street team and how relationships are the heart of everything we do. READ HERE

Karyn McCluskey also wrote an article for The Scotsman about the importance of volunteering. Thank you so much to Karyn for her 8-years of service on our Board of Trustees and thank you to all our volunteers. We couldn’t do it without you. READ HERE

And Ashley Young, our Head of Hubs and Street Teams features in a recent article in the Glasgow Times on homelessness. READ HERE

Please support our Christmas Care Appeal

Christmas Care Appeal 2021

At Simon Community Scotland we do the very best we can to provide information, support and care for people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness. This year, 2021, we will have helped over 6,000 people.

And we always strive to give comfort, hope and dignity.

Sometimes, the people we support have literally nothing but the clothes on their back.

So, this Christmas, were asking for your support to help us provide care packs to everyone we support, over the festive period and throughout 2021. Click HERE for our Appeal Page.

Every time we support someone experiencing homelessness into emergency, temporary or supported accommodation, or into a new permanent home to call their own, we provide an individually tailored care pack – a little box of essentials and some nice goodies.

Toothbrushes, toiletries, underwear, socks, pyjamas, a dressing gown, tea, coffee, biscuits, a radio to play some music, a kettle … things most of us take for granted can go a long, long way and really make a difference to someone’s life.

A care pack we provided when supporting someone into emergency accommodation recently
. Picture Copyright: Iain McLean

These gifts show we care. It’s not just about a roof over someone’s head. It’s about making somewhere a home. Even if it is for one night, a few days, or a couple of weeks.

Simon Community Scotland caught me, they cradled me. They sat with me, they fed me. I actually felt as though someone liked me, that someone genuinely cared. i was looked after, I was warm, I had a bed. I got my own room, a television, they got me a telephone – that was my lifeline. I could talk to the people that I love. I’ve never been given that kind of support.” Richard, who is living in one of our supported accommodation flats.

Caring is such a wonderful thing, because it makes a difference to other people. Caring provides comfort, caring can make someone smile, caring can give people a boost and caring can give people hope, dignity, identity, meaning and empowerment

Your donation, your connection, your care, will make a difference to someone we are supporting.

Because every pound really does make a difference.

To support our Christmas Care Appeal you can make an online donation HERE

Or you can send a cheque, payable to Simon Community Scotland to, Simon Community Scotland, 472 Ballater St, Glasgow G5 0QW. Please mark the back of your cheque – Christmas Care Appeal.

You can also email santa@simonscotland.org if you’d like to get in touch.

Please show you care this Christmas and we promise our team will provide the best care we possibly can over the festive season and through 2022.

Things we take for granted can mean the world to someone in their time of need

Michael at the Access Hub

Michael’s Story: More dignity. More hope.

The people we support do amazing things every day to overcome trauma and any difficulties they face. Our approach is to ‘stick by people’ – making sure each person gets the support they need to overcome barriers and can create a good life for themselves. 

One of our services – The Access Hub in Glasgow – provides a welcoming and safe place for people to pop in. Staff are trained to listen and support people to resolve difficulties related to homelessness – which often includes linking people to colleagues in other agencies and helping to sort out practical life-stuff. 

Michael is someone who has used our support for many years. He has experienced some really difficult life situations, including the tragic death of his partner. Our Street Team initially connected with Michael when he was living on the streets. Recently, we have been delighted to support Michael as he moved into his own permanent accommodation. 

Michael still visits our Access Hub for support with different day-to-day needs:

“There’s people who will help you with everything you need help with. There are different spaces to go to in The Hub for a chat.

“The support has been phenomenal. The staff have been so supportive. I come in all the time. I praise this place.”

A common barrier for many people who have experienced homelessness, relates to banking. To open a bank account typically requires identification papers, proof of address and other documents. Yet, someone who has been facing crisis situations and been sleeping rough, might not have this material. 

Not having a bank account impacts people in multiple ways. It makes getting benefit payments a very convoluted process and means people have to use cash all the time. It makes it impossible to do payments online for shopping, entertainment or anything else. It makes it harder to deal with the practicalities of getting a job and being paid. And, on a really important human level, it can leave people feeling ‘on the edge’ and not really ‘part of society’.

Our pilot partnership with TSB bank is helping to make things easier for the people we support. Michael is the second person to open a TSB bank account through our pilot partnership with TSB.

Michael explains in more detail:

“Not getting a bank account was one of my main blockers. I didn’t have the right ID, the right this, the right that. The team came with me to TSB to set things up.”

“Before my bank account, I would get a PIP code to my phone and I would have to take that to the Co-op to get my benefit money.”

“I feel safer for having a bank account. I feel more secure. When I get a job, I’d like to be a bricklayer or a plumber, it will be a huge help.”

Speaking more about the Hub, Michael added:

“I praise this place. Honestly, see if this wasn’t here, I don’t know where I’d be. I’d probably be dead, that’s the truth.”

This is why we do what we do. We want people to feel more secure and confident. We want things to be easier for people who have experienced trauma. We want people to have what they need to shape the life that they want. 

Every day we see how amazing people are. We are proud to be able to provide company, expertise and support as people face and overcome difficult situations. 

We are grateful to all working in partnership with us – including our colleagues at TSB – to help make this possible. 

Together, we can end homlessness.

Housing First in Edinburgh

Housing First – a simple statement that seems almost too obvious to be a solution for people who are experiencing homelessness. In the recent past, however, for some people with multiple complex needs, they were often required to demonstrate they were “ready” for housing – by abstaining from alcohol or drugs for instance – before being “awarded” a tenancy. 

Housing First challenges this approach – a home is not a reward, it is a right.

In first establishing a stable foundation in settled accommodation, individuals with multiple complex needs – problem substance use, trauma, mental health challenges – can then be assisted in accessing the support they need from a place of security – their home. 

And that is where Streetwork at Simon Community Scotland come in. Having been part of a consortium delivering Housing First support in Edinburgh since 2018, we’re now expanding our service from 1st October in conjunction with our partners Bethany Christian Trust, Hillcrest Futures and Turning Point Scotland. 

Our team work with people for as long as they are needed; bringing empathy and understanding, advocacy and assistance, and opportunities for community connection to those who may have faced multiple barriers throughout their lives. Our approach is tailored to the needs of each person we support; flexing and developing as they do, though always trauma informed with a harm reduction mindset.

One of our Support Workers describes Housing First as “we stay by you, no matter how bad things might get“, with this focus on strong relationships resulting in real success: 

A client who was previously considered “unaccommodatable” due to a range of complex support needs is now approaching his first year in a tenancy – his first in 23 years!

We’re excited to be continuing our Housing First journey in Edinburgh; research has shown that this approach results in improved outcomes for people with higher tenancy sustainment, improved health outcomes and fewer interactions with the criminal justice system. 

We’re always looking for people who share our vision and values to join our team. If this sounds like you, please check out: https://www.simonscotland.org/join-us/join-our-staff-team/

Written by Lesley Henderson

My Harm Reduction Story

By Hannah Boyle

Last week I took post as Women’s Harm Reduction Coordinator. I started with Simon Community Scotland just prior to the pandemic as a Support Worker in women’s services. As my first job in social care, I have had to learn on the job and through experience, which has given me the privileged position of embracing harm reduction within my practice. In March 2020, due to the shutdown of the majority of necessary interventions, we were fearful that crisis centres and Injecting Equipment Provision services may be forced to close, putting our women in a higher state of risk than they already are. We believe in bringing services directly to people wherever possible, and so began to operate Injecting Equipment Provision within our women’s projects. 

As Claire Longmuir (Policy and Practice Lead for Harm Reduction) came into post, the culture towards drug use began to shift. The people we support face some of the most oppression in society today, and regularly endure stigma and discrimination which prevents the right support being accessed and effectively, lives being saved. 

By beginning to move towards a harm reduction model in the services, the therapeutic relationships we have with the people we support began to blossom in a whole new direction. Suddenly, the women were not afraid to be open and honest about their drug use for fear of punitive action being taken against them. We heard stories of women being “chucked out” of services or threats of police action being taken against them. We heard of how women who inject drugs were forced to use on the streets, susceptible to all forms of exploitation, bacteria and increased levels of vulnerability. We heard of how women would use drugs in accommodation services but rush for fear of staff interrupting and be more at risk of overdose. We heard of women using drugs in bathrooms, behind closed doors, aware that the risk of death was severe if they were to overdose – but feeling it was their only option.

Hearing these stories and having the privilege to be trusted with the treatment that women who use drugs have faced for far too long, it moved me to do more to challenge stigma against drug use and promote an empowering culture of tolerance and acceptance. 

At Simon Community Scotland, our values are what drive forward our practice. Our staff teams are passionate, empathetic individuals who put people first and ensure their voices are at the centre of everything we do. By embracing the harm reduction model, we accept the whole parts of a person, not separating them from their drug use and deeming them “too hard to engage” or “too difficult to support”. We believe in human rights and everyone being treated with warmth and regard, dignity and respect. 

Our staff have the privilege of building therapeutic, trauma-informed relationships with the people we support and empowering them to achieve the best possible outcomes. We have seen firsthand the power of these therapeutic relationships and the comfort and connection they provide to people experiencing homelessness. This is why we’re so good at what we do.

The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety – it’s connection Johann Hari

Over the last year we have been working hard to embed and build harm reduction more into our policies and practice in order to prevent drug-related harm. Through this approach, we have seen these relationships grow and the people living in our services feel more comfortable discussing and accessing support for their drug use without fear of discriminiation and punitive action being taken.

I have seen firsthand the impact of this shift within our services. The women we support feel able to be open and honest about their drug use and in turn, access support that benefits their lives. Staff are more confident identifying risks, for example concerning injecting related wounds or signs and symptoms of overdose and how to manage this. In my time spent working in women’s services, I have seen firsthand the number of fatal overdoses decline. Whether that is due to the power of these therapeutic relationships or staff being confident to manage overdose and save lives, who is to say… All I know is that what we are doing is working. 

We provide a home, a safe place to live, but we also provide life changing relationships, giving the people we support the respect they deserve, having them directly feed into policies to ensure their voice is truly at the centre of everything we do.

Not why the addiction, but why the pain? — Gabor Mate 

Within my new role, I will have the opportunity to co-produce harm reduction resources with the women using our services that will directly benefit their lives. Recently, I supported one of the women living in our services to meet with Scottish Government representatives and discuss our Digital Response to Harm Reduction and the impact it has had on her life (which you can hear Jodie speaking about in the new SCS podcast!) These are Jodie’s words:

“It gave me a wee bit of relief because I’m a recovering addict, so it’s helped me get to online meetings, it’s helped me when I’ve been struggling and I’ve been down.

I can get connected to fellowship and I’ve been able to use Zoom, Whatsapp, Facebook, even say hello to a friend online has helped my mental health. It’s helped my whole wellbeing. It’s gave me a whole new outlook. It makes me feel wanted, it makes me feel needed and that as a homeless addict, that’s all we want, is to feel wanted and feel needed in other people’s lives and this is what the digital scheme gives.”

This project has a vital part to play – not only in tackling drug-related deaths and drug-related harm, but also in challenging the stigma and discrimination people who use drugs face, specifically women. At the heart of our Digital Approach to Harm Reduction, are the voices of the women we support. This will provide them the opportunity to input directly into resources that will benefit them and in the long run, work to save lives. I am so excited for the year ahead and the wonderful things the people we support will produce. 

– Written by Hannah Boyle, Women’s Harm Reduction Co-ordinator