Category Archives: News

News from Simon Community Scotland

Streetreads is a Big Issue Changemaker

Emma Jardine, Streetreads Co-ordinator with Rachel Cowan, founder of Streetreads, at the opening in August 2021

Every year The Big Issue Changemakers series highlights the great and good, the innovators and agitators who look out for the less fortunate.

This year’s edition is jam-packed full of the individuals and organisations making a positive difference and we were absolutely delighted to learn that our Streetreads Library is included! Thank you so much to the team at The Big Issue for their support.

2021 was a huge year for Streetreads as we opened the library doors in August. We were thrilled that Andrew O’Hagan came long to read from Mayflies, his outstanding novel as part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. The next month Ian Rankin visited the library to catch up with Rachel Cowan, founder of Streetreads. The feature went out on STV.

Since then, we’ve quietly been introducing a timetable of classes to the library. Regular visitors come in to read in a quiet, warm and safe space, chatting to staff and volunteers. Writing and storytelling classes have been introduced and we are really excited by some of the work that is being produced as a result of these classes. The library is making a difference to the lives of people experiencing homelessness and we look forward to introducing new classes through 2022.

“I hadn’t really thought of Streetreads being Changemakers before, but yes we absolutely do want things to be different for our readers. We want them to be accepted as they are and see the library as theirs. It’s full of books and love – important stuff!”

Emma Jardine, Streetreads Co-ordinator
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Please buy a copy of the latest Big Issue if you can.

This is what they very kindly said about Streetreads.

One of the great hidden tragedies of Britain’s austerity era is the decimation of libraries and the free access to knowledge, culture and technology that has been eroded from the communities who need it most. Libraries are valuable to those who are unfortunate enough to be unable to afford books or access the internet on their own. They also offer a vital place of acceptance, as well as shelter for people without a home. 

Streetreads Library opened its doors in Edinburgh in August catering solely to people experiencing homelessness. The library is the culmination of five years of work for Streetreads, now a part of Streetwork at homelessness charity Simon Community Scotland. The group has been taking donated books out to individual rough sleepers, soup kitchens, night shelters and refuges since 2016. But now they are able to offer a safe, warm space alongside the books for the people who need it in the Scottish capital. 

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.

1-year of impact at the Glasgow Access Hub

On September 30th 2020, we were delighted to open a brand new purpose designed Access Hub on Argyle Street in Glasgow.  

1-year on, we were very grateful to welcome Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government, for a coffee and a chat with CEO Lorraine McGrath and Head of Service Ashley Young.

Ashley Young – ‘Although it’s been a year, it feels in some ways like it was yesterday. We opened in the middle of a pandemic, when Glasgow City Centre was incredibly quiet, everything else was closed. But people came to see us, we can have over 100 people through the door every single day.”

‘Our team have provided over 24,000 face-to-face supports, to around 3,000 individuals, in the last year. People respond really well to the space and the environment we have created, it is a very welcome space to be and that impacts on everyone who comes through the door.”

Lorraine McGrath, CEO for Simon Community Scotland, said: “12-months on from opening the doors to our Glasgow Access Hub, I continue to be amazed by the difference it is making to the lives of people at risk of, or experiencing homelessness in Glasgow. This unique space and environment is helping people to feel valued, listened to and hopeful. Creating a one-stop-shop where all the services people need are in one place is saving time for the people we support and for our team and our partners, we’re making a difference as quickly and as effectively as possible.”

Lorraine added; “I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported the Hub, to all our staff and volunteers and to all our partners who we work alongside to make a difference. We are changing and saving lives.”

“Thank you so much to Ms Robison for visiting. It has been great to share some of the incredible successes and impacts.”