Category Archives: From the Frontline

Some of our North Lanarkshire staff outside a supported accommodation service. #OneTeam

Saving lives in North Lanarkshire


One of the really sad things around COVID is the pressure it is placing on people. For those who are experiencing addictions this pressure has really increased. 

Challenges facing people

With huge variations in drug supply, more harmful options have become the norm during COVID for people living with addictions. Additionally, many of the protective factors – like access to treatment and social connections – have become less readily available. This creates all sorts of challenges for many of the people we support and for how we care for them.  

What we do every day 

In North Lanarkshire – as in all our services – we stick by people so they can journey out of homelessness. It starts with each person. We show up with humanity and understanding – connecting where people are at, being on their side, being attentive, bringing warmth. This is our beating heart. 

What does our support look like for those who are struggling with drug addictions? 

We have been embedding a harm reduction approach in how we offer support. This means we are getting really skilled at strengthening protective factors and also responding quickly at moments of crisis and increased risk

Here are some examples from our North Lanarkshire service: 

Each Monday, staff at one of our accommodation services host a weekly Breakfast Café promoting recovery and wellbeing. The week’s topics are selected to be relevant to the people living in the service at the time. Guests come along to share their first hand experiences of recovery or speak about services that are available to our residents. 

Weekly Breakfast Club at one of our North Lanarkshire accommodation services.
Weekly Breakfast Club at one of our North Lanarkshire accommodation services.

Speaking about the Breakfast Café, our Service Leader, Sam Fingland says: 

The guys really enjoy this. It’s a way of getting together – get a bit of breakfast, informally communicate with the staff and their peers, and be able to link in with others they might not otherwise meet or connect with. This is something that was born out of the pandemic, and will continue as a way of supporting people from within the service.”
Sam Fingland, Service Lead

Creating engaging activities is another protective factor that also reminds people what is possible. Physical wellbeing activities can be infectious. Our 5km challenge in one of our North Lanarkshire services is currently having great benefits for both residents and staff alike!

When we see someone come into the service under the influence of a substance, we check on them every 15minutes to ensure they’re ok. This can involve sitting with people for many hours. We do this because each person matters. If someone experiences a drug overdose, we are trained in administering Naloxone so we can prevent their death.

The team in North Lanarkshire have also been developing a life saving digital health solution that alerts staff when someone is overdosing. The team worked with service users and partners to develop this system that uses radar and mattress sensors to monitor vital signs. This helps us prevent tragic loss of life. We are proud to have won SCVO’s 2020 Demonstrating Digital Award for this work. 

These are just some of the ways we save lives every day. 

Why this matters

Each and every person matters. We want the people we support to know this: “You matter enough for us to save your life and help make it better.” The struggles people face are not the whole story. People are amazing and we believe in each person we support. We want them to also see the possibility and potential we see.

What makes this possible?

People are at the heart of everything we do and we recruit people to our team who share our values. Being trauma informed is not enough for us – our ambition is to be trauma skilled. This means that not only do we understand how trauma can impact people, but we are also skilled at relating to people in ways that help recovery. It is heartbreaking for us that all too often those who’ve experienced the trauma of homelessness and addiction are treated harshly or even dismissed. We bring warmth, humanity and persistence to how we engage with people. 

As Peter McLachlan, one of our North Lanarkshire Service Leads says: 

How we meet people matters. We don’t bring judgement in how we treat people and improve lives. We meet people where they are at. Our words are a powerful tool. Everyday small things matter, like asking ‘How are you today?” 
Peter McLachlan, Service Lead

We are so proud that this approach and our commitment to people earned us the title of Scotland’s ‘Charity of the Year 2020’. #Humanity #MakingThingHappen #WhatWeDoEveryDay

To learn more about our services in North Lanarkshire, visit Our Services section.