Homelessness charities preparing for difficult winter



The true impact of the pandemic on people’s livelihoods is only just beginning to be felt.

With so much uncertainty, homelessness charities are anticipating a difficult winter.

An emergency response to move rough sleepers into hotels over lockdown was widely praised, but campaigners say what comes next will be key.

When the pandemic hit, the Scottish Government reconvened its Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG), in the hope of finding some longer-term solutions.

t’s now been confirmed that the traditional night shelters – the likes of church halls with beds laid out in one open space – will be phased out.

That is partly by necessity, as these are not safe in these times of social distancing, but there is also an agreement that more suitable types of accommodation should be widely available.

The Bethany Christian Trust, which has run a winter night shelter in the past, had taken over the Haymarket Hub hotel in Edinburgh to run a ‘welcome centre’ to replace traditional shelters.

Up to 50 rough sleepers will be accommodated, given individual rooms and 24-hour support before being moved on to more suitable housing.

The charity is also running its annual ‘Buy a Bed’ campaign, where a £21 donation funds three meals and a room for one night.

Manager Ruth Longmuir says the welcome centre was a positive step.

“It’s great to be able to offer en suite rooms for people where they can have somewhere safe and warm, with a real focus on moving people on to more appropriate accommodation,” she says.

“Moving from being in one big hall where we could see everybody and look after everyone to looking after people in individual rooms, when people are in very chaotic situations and they’re very vulnerable, it is a risk – it’s something we’re aware of. One of the things we do is we check on people regularly.”

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