Here at Simon Community Scotland, we have been working with people affected by homelessness since the 1960s and always sought to broaden our horizons. We acquired the Saltcoats service on Green St in August of 2015 and it soon became our largest service. At capacity, the building accommodates 23 people experiencing homelessness between the ages of 16-70 who are in crisis and have an urgent need for accommodation.
In the Three Towns area, the service has proven to be invaluable in helping people affected by homelessness to find stability and personal development. We encourage a relationship-based approach in all of our supported accommodation and in doing so we have found great success in helping those we support. Our staff are trained to collaboratively work with the individuals they support and help them to identify the best way forward with matters ranging from addiction and abuse to job applications and family relationships.
Unfortunately, the Saltcoats service will close on Wednesday 31st July 2019 in response to a new ‘Housing First’ policy, which has resulted in significant cuts to funding within the sector.
We sat down with our CEO, Lorraine McGrath, to speak about the closure. This is what she had to say:
‘We are immensely proud of our staff and all of the people they have supported at Green Street for their commitment and perseverance during the closure process. All of us at Simon Community Scotland were very disappointed that the need for cost savings has resulted in the loss of the service in Saltcoats. I want to recognise and celebrate the success of so many people in moving away from crisis to find some stability, both during their stay at Green St and thereafter; the skill and compassion of the team in how they worked with every single person; and the many local partners who supported our work. We take inspiration from successes and learning from the challenges of delivering the service and we wish only continued great things for our staff and service users in the future as they move on from the service’.
Stewart Nixon, our Head of Services and Localities at Simon Community Scotland, and manager of the Saltcoats service said:
‘It is with a heavy heart that I have to comment on the service closing. I feel for our service users and they are our priority as we move forward. I am incredibly proud of every member of my staff group for their dedication, commitment, and compassion. The sheer amount of lives they have saved cannot go without mentioning and if it weren’t for their intervention, drug deaths in the area would have undoubtedly been 20-30 people higher every year. I cannot commend the staff or the service users enough’.
In the last four years, since the service began, we have helped over 1000 people experiencing homelessness in the Saltcoats area. Those who have stayed within our service have progressed onto temporary accommodation, back to their families, or even into a house of their own. Some people find their way back into the service after experiencing further difficulties.
The staff at the Saltcoats service shared a few words on the closure. One staff member said:
‘I have always found the Saltcoats service a great place to work. Every day we are faced with different challenges and as a team we always worked through these. Personally, I feel Saltcoats is a much-needed service in North Ayrshire due to the support we offer to the most vulnerable of clients who pass through our doors. I have loved every minute of my time working here and feel very sad at the need to close.
SNP Councillor Jean McClung, in whose ward the service is located, had the following to say:
‘I was pleased to be invited to the recent Open Day held at the Simon Community service in Green Street, the event being a celebration of the sterling work done over the years by the committed staff at the service. Since the first time I visited the service and met Head of Service, Stewart Nixon, I have been greatly impressed by his, and his staff’s empathy towards, and commitment to improving the lives of, the service users there.
I was quite distressed to discover at the Open Day that only a handful of residents knew where they would be living in three weeks time. My sincere hope is that, with the support of North Ayrshire Council, all the present residents of Green Street will find suitable accommodation, and will continue to receive the professional support they may require in order to move on with their lives’.
SNP Councillor Davina McTiernan, representative of the Stevenson Ward, said:
‘I support the Scottish Government’s ‘Housing First’ initiative that works towards housing those affected by homelessness in their own home, however, I commend the work done at the Simon Community service and acknowledge the importance of having such places available to those in need.
With support from North Ayrshire, I will do my utmost to ensure all residents of the Simon Community service will be offered accommodation and have support offered to them so they can continue to rebuild their lives’.
As of Tuesday 30th July, every service user within the Green Street service was successfully allocated accommodation. They are working with the Simon Community staff to transition effectively into their new living environments.