Rough Sleeping

What’s the difference between homeless and roofless?

Being roofless means that you have no alternative but to sleep rough on the streets and parks. You can be homeless even though you have a roof over your head. It may be that you’re staying on a friend’s sofa, or in emergency/temporary accommodation, you could be in bed and breakfast or possibly supported accommodation. In short you don’t have a permanent place to call your own.

What’s a skipper?

A skipper is a term used to describe a rough sleeping site. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with skips, more likely an old term used for a temporary bunk, possibly a nautical term. If someone is skippering then they are sleeping rough.

Is there a safe way to sleep rough?

No. Rough sleeping is bad for you in every way. The risk of assault and theft are high. The weather can do real damage to your health and the stress of survival living takes a huge toll on your mental and physical health. The estimated life expectancy of a rough sleeper is 43, pretty much half that of the general population.

Who sleeps rough?

Many of the people sleeping rough on a regular basis have mental health problems, addiction issues and not likely to have any money. Many others sleep rough for one or two nights before finding a safer place to stay. In Glasgow a significant number of young people sleep rough for one to two nights, mostly resulting from a family relationship breakdown.

Isn’t there a hostel people can go to?

During the winter the Glasgow City Mission operates a Winter Night Shelter providing a safe place for up to 40 people. Bethany Christian Trust provides night shelters in Edinburgh between September and May, offering a safe space off the streets for up to 70 people who have nowhere to stay. There are no all year round shelters in Glasgow or Edinburgh.

Whose responsibility is it to help?

The Local Authority has a statutory responsibility to house people however tackling the causes and effects of homelessness is a much wider agenda with education, community, health and social care and government involvement.

Is it mostly men that sleep rough?

Mostly, about 80% of rough sleepers are men. The reason so few women seem to rough sleep is that they hide away in order to stay safe, women are particularly vulnerable on the Street. The other is that they may often make choices to connect with people that can offer a roof, even though it could be a really bad relationship. Some women have said to us ‘better the devil you know’.

Is rough sleeping illegal?

According to the vagrancy act of 1824 sleeping on the streets is illegal if you have access to shelter but don’t go. The Police do not arrest rough sleepers and are generally sympathetic to the very difficult circumstances people are surviving in.

Is begging illegal?

Begging is not illegal in Scotland and beggars can’t be arrested or asked to move on, unless it is seen to be aggressive.

Should I give money to rough sleepers?

Begging is a difficult issue and we say a little more about this on our site. We would suggest that if you want to donate/help then do it through us or another city homeless charity. Alternatively you could volunteer some of your time to help. See our volunteering page for details.

Are people who beg homeless?

Some are but our surveys suggest most people begging are not homeless with about 20% having nowhere to live. People beg for all sorts of reasons and finding a roof over your head is only one of those.

What is RSVP?

RSVP is our Rough Sleepers and Vulnerable People Team based in Glasgow. The Team is made up of a dedicated Street Team and Street Cycles that cover Glasgow City and outskirts, a Complex Needs Team that work intensively with people and The Access Hub, our new multi-agency support Hub on Argyle Street. (In Edinburgh our Streetwork service has a range of services including a Street Team and Holyrood Hub – visit out Streetwork website for more information).

Can I refer to RSVP?

If you see or meet someone you are concerned about you can call the RSVP freephone number. We’re here to help 0800 027 7466

How can I help?

We are always looking for funding to provide the essentials for those who are or at risk of homelessness, we also welcome donations of food and other items and of course you can volunteer or help to raise money for the Simon Community.


Some people sleeping rough have pets mostly dogs. It can be the case at times that the reason they are rough sleeping is that they can’t get accommodated with their pets. In Glasgow, Trusty Paws offer a free check up and treatment for people experiencing homelessness who have dogs. All 4 Paws offer veterinary care in Edinburgh for pets of people experiencing homelessness, along with the PDSA. There are some rooms in rapid access accommodations in Edinburgh which can accommodate a person with a dog.

Medical Treatment

Accessing medical treatment is a right for everybody but this can prove difficult if you have no fixed abode. Hunter Street (55 Hunter Street, G4 0UP) offers access to medical treatment as do some drop in centres where you can speak to a nurse / doctor. The Edinburgh Access Practice provides health services for people experiencing homelessness – they are based at the Spittal Street Centre, (22-24 Spittal Street, EH3 9DU) and in The Access Point (17 Leith Street, EH1 3AT).