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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

More than a bed for the night – a lifeline for the most vulnerable

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Glasgow Winter Night Shelter is a temporary fix to a complex problem, it aims to ensure that the city's most vulnerable have a bed this winter

“Within hours of settling down, I had been spat on by a passer-by for sleeping rough. I’d walked down the same street not long before and seen people sleeping there. You never for a moment think that it could be you.”

This is the testimony of Tony, who found himself sleeping rough in Glasgow’s Argyle Street last year.

He was one of the 602 people helped by the Glasgow Winter Night Shelter last year – a multi-charity service which is literally a lifeline for some of the most vulnerable in our society.

People like Tony, who found himself with nowhere to go following a hospital discharge.

He spoke of the difference the night shelter made for him: “I’d gone to the night shelter and it was like you’d won a prize because you were getting somewhere warm, dry and clean. A hot drink and toast might not sound like much but when you’ve been out in the cold it means a lot.”

This year, as homelessness rates rise to national crisis levels, there are likely to be a lot more people like Tony seeking the shelter’s help.

The shelter opened its doors on 1 December, and with a continued shortage of suitable and accessible accommodation and with cutbacks to social care budgets across the city, Glasgow City Mission says it is bracing itself for another busy year.

Volunteers aim to offer help which goes beyond a bed for the night, seeing what they provide as a joined up service.

Bedding down for the night at the shelter

During the harsh winter months, it is simply too cold and too dangerous for some of our most vulnerable citizens

Bedding down for the night at the shelter

After a safe night’s sleep in warm surroundings, breakfast is served, and guests are informed of the support available across the city including Glasgow City Mission’s city centre project, Marie Trust, Lodging House Mission, RSVP and Simon Community Scotland’s London Road drop-in.

Crucially, Glasgow City Mission’s trained staff and volunteers seek to understand the underlying reasons for each person being homeless and connect people to Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership homeless casework team for a homeless application to be made.

Govan Law Centre is on hand to challenge accommodation decisions for people where they believe people are entitled to settled accommodation but are being denied this by the local authority.

This year, Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership welfare rights officers have also been deployed to help night shelter guests ensure they are receiving all that they are entitled to.

Where guests also have health issues that need addressed, staff can refer them to nearby NHS Hunter Street, a specialist clinic for people affected by homelessness who do not have access to a GP.

Grant Campbell, Glasgow City Mission chief executive, said: “Rough sleeping in Glasgow continues to be a significant issue. There are no quick or simple fixes to homelessness sadly and long-term use of night shelters are certainly not the answer – suitable homes are.

“We have seen progress in the way in which organisations work together to tackle the problem which is to be applauded.

“However until more provision is made in the form of more suitable homes, systemic change at local authority level in the way homeless applications are dealt with, and more tailored support for people put in place, we cannot stand by and watch more people being forced to sleep on our city’s streets this winter.

“During the harsh winter months, it is simply too cold and too dangerous for some of our most vulnerable citizens with complex needs. Together with our partners, we want to provide a safe, warm and welcoming space for those who are forced to sleep rough in the city."

This year’s Glasgow Winter Night Shelter service is once again be located at Lodging House Mission’s premises on East Campbell Street, near the city’s famous Barrowland Ballroom.

Doors are open at 10pm every night including Christmas and new year until 31 March.