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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.

Volunteers save the homeless during a brutal winter

This news post is about 6 years old

Bethany's care shelter prepared a total of 11,230 meals and provided 8,260 bed spaces to some of the most vulnerable

This winter was one of the most brutal in recent years – but more than 700 people were spared its excesses thanks to a homeless shelter.

For the past 28 weeks, Bethany Christian Trust has been providing a safe place to sleep, a hot meal and a range of support services at its Edinburgh facility.

The charity’s care shelter prepared a total of 11,230 meals and provided 8,260 bed spaces to some of the most vulnerable as temperatures routinely nosedived below zero.

A small team of staff run the project, helped by over 1,000 volunteers, lent a hand to help prepare hot meals and provided church venues for people to sleep on a nightly rota basis.

On average, 43 people each night used the care shelter and 75 churches across Edinburgh and Lothians have taken part.

Starting as a two week pilot in 1996, the project has since grown to span six and a half months over the coldest period of the year, from October until April and to date, it has provided over 91,500 bed spaces.

People who use the shelter often remark how much they appreciate not only shelter from the elements, hot food and warmth but also the care shown.

One told a volunteer: “Thank you for being there for me and making me feel like a human being. It felt good, you are always asking how I am, it feels good to know people still care.”

Alasdair Bennett, the shelter’s director of operations, said: “The Care Shelter has been very successful in rapidly re-accommodating people through the multi-disciplinary approach shared by all the statutory and charitable partners involved.

“The team worked hard to reduce the average length of stay for every person and over 70% of people stayed for seven nights or less in total.

“We are hugely indebted to all sectors of society for the support that we have received in order to provide this life-saving safety net to some of Edinburgh’s most vulnerable people over the last 196 nights.”

Manager Ruth Longmuir added: “The shelter has an incredible amount of support from the churches in Edinburgh and the surrounding areas. We’re greatly indebted to over a thousand volunteers who have turned up night after night, worked hard in the kitchen and spent time chatting with our guests.

“The staff team have also been brilliant; hard-working, caring and full of compassion.”