A day with our Street Team part 1

Everyone at Simon Community Scotland is delighted to be partnering with Biffa to combat the causes and effects of homelessness together. Our Street Teams are out in Edinburgh & Glasgow every single day, so are Biffa’s. From our very first conversations, this felt like a natural partnership and a number of ideas came out of the very first meeting. Together, we can make a difference.

Earlier this week, Gavin Money, Regional Manager for Scotland & Northern Ireland for Biffa, spent a day with our Glasgow Street Team. Gavin has kindly written a blog documenting his day that we will publish in 2 parts.

Gavin with Alex from our Street Team

By Gavin Money, Regional Manager for Scotland & Northern Ireland, Biffa

In the autumn of 2021 we, at Biffa, took the decision to foster a relationship with Simon Community Scotland by sponsoring two Street Teams in Glasgow and Edinburgh respectively. As a national Scottish business specializing in waste collection and processing, we have been acutely aware of the real risk “people in bins” pose in our industry – we still find across the UK some souls seeking warmth or security from the world by climbing into and resting in bins. You can imagine the serious and life-threatening risks from this action. In an effort to find partners that could assist our drivers should they encounter such a situation we reached out to Simon Community Scotland, and it was from there that our partnership formed.

At Biffa Scotland we operate over 150 waste collection vehicles with our drivers on the road from 4am and our final daily shift finishing around 11pm – so we have plenty of eyes in and around the cities, towns, and villages of our country. At Simon Community Scotland their Street Teams are out in those same streets in Glasgow and Edinburgh from 7am to 11pm so the operational fit between our organisations was clear.

In late March 2022 I was given the opportunity to spend time with a Glasgow Street Team so I could understand their role in the city and learn more about the challenges and situations they deal with and to provide me with some perspective. I was taken out by Paul and Alex – two incredibly passionate, empathetic, and warm individuals around the hub of the city – Argyll Street, Gordon Street, Buchanan Street, Trongate and then to Sauchiehall Street as well as the warren of lanes in between that gel Glasgow together. Paul had been working in the Street Team for 3 years and Alex for 3 months, but both shared a very palpable passion and pride in their work before we set off from the Access Hub on Argyll Street.

As we walked towards Gordon Street and Buchanan Street the guys answered the many questions I had about what they do every day. We reached a lane off Buchanan Street with a line of at least two dozen bins being used by local businesses – it was in this lane and within one of these bins at the start of the pandemic in April 2020 that a member of the Street Team came across a man that had become homeless. He had traveled from England to start a construction job, but the role fell through in the grip of COVID and not wanting to lose pride or indeed know where to turn, the gentleman became homeless. 

With the support of Simon Community Scotland, he was found shelter and more permanent accommodation and it was clear that he was a ordinary guy that had just found that circumstances had conspired against him. Rather tragically the man passed away through ill health later that year, but it immediately gave me a strong impression of the situations and solutions faced by the team.

Paul & Anthony from our Street Team with our identifiable Purple rucksacks
Picture Copyright: Iain McLean, www.iainmclean.com

As we walked along Argyle Street from the Trongate we meet a couple that immediately clocked the purple Simon Community rucksacks and asked Paul and Alex for assistance.

We continued and met a lad that was well known to both Paul and Alex and there was a warmth and camaraderie in those initial exchanges. It was at this point that Paul and Alex spoke about the importance of trust in their role – we often speak of this in a business environment in the creation and development of a team, but this quality was incredibly profound throughout my entire time with the guys.

Heading back to the Hub for a coffee the guys pointed out the hotels that are used to accommodate and support those with the various needs Simon Community Scotland manage every day. At this point we discussed the use of naloxone and how it had helped saved countless lives. Indeed, Paul had used this on several occasions in streets, accommodation and within the Simon Community Scotland Access Hub itself.

It was back at the Access Hub that I was given a naloxone training kit and spoke with Anthony, another member of the Street Team who demonstrated and talked about what he has encountered when using it – it was clear that this was an essential element of their Street Team kit.

Naloxone – all of our staff are trained in how to use naloxone. And practice with tangerines.