Today (7 March 2018), Housing Minister Kevin Stewart, paid a special visit to staff from homelessness charity Bethany Christian Trust, thanking them for ‘going the extra mile’ during last week’s extreme blizzard.

At the event, Kevin Stewart MSP also announced that the Scottish Government will now provide a further £150,000 to continue to provide some services to the summer, while the latest recommendations of the Homeless and Rough Sleeping Action Group are taken forward.

These recommendations have all been accepted in principle by the Scottish Government. The initiatives will include moving to a ‘Housing First’ model which ensures that people move straight into a permanent home rather than temporary accommodation.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said:

I was extremely impressed by the fast and effective work of organisations like Bethany Christian Trust supporting those sleeping rough during last week’s unprecedented and extreme winter weather and want to thank everyone involved for the work and commitment they have shown. It is now important that we build on this good work and these latest recommendations provide a blueprint to do that and reach our national priority to eradicate rough sleeping for good.

The recommendations were made just days after Scotland experienced one of the worst blizzard conditions in years, leaving many people faced with the crisis of rough sleeping in a dangerous position without safe and warm shelter.

Kevin Stewart MSP met with some of Bethany’s staff and volunteers who run two of the charity’s key emergency services, the Winter Care Shelter which operates for 28 weeks a year, and the Care Van which is run in partnership with Edinburgh City Mission. As a result of the extreme winter weather, staff from Bethany’s Winter Care Shelter and the Care Van mobilised replacement teams last minute and worked extra shifts to support the number of people sleeping rough who required assistance during the blizzard.

 Alasdair Bennett, Director of Operations at Bethany Christian Trust, said:

Thank you for everyone’s incredible support. Throughout the worst of the weather the Care Van street teams still managed out every night and also for all our lunchtime outreaches, bringing hot drinks, fresh soup, food, blankets, sleeping bags, clothes, and hope. The Care Shelter has been in full operation and keeping men and women safe and warm, with hot two course meals every night. We are indebted to the amazing staff and volunteers who went the extra mile to save lives and keep all our frontline services going, including providing accommodation and support for a capacity of up to 175 people each night across the Lothians.