This winter, 722 men and women have used the Winter Care Shelter run by homelessness charity, Bethany Christian Trust.

For the past 28 weeks, the Edinburgh-based Care Shelter has supported hundreds of people who were faced with the crisis of rough sleeping. Providing a safe place to sleep, a hot meal and a range of support from experienced staff and 8 partner agencies, the Care Shelter has prepared a total of 11,230 meals and provided 8,260 bed spaces to people who are homeless in Edinburgh.

The service is run by a small team of staff, who also saw over 1,000 volunteers lend a hand to help prepare hot meals and provide church venues for people to sleep on a nightly rota basis. On average, 43 people each night have used the Care Shelter and 75 churches across Edinburgh and Lothians have taken part.

What began as a 2-week pilot programme in 1996, the Care Shelter has since grown over the years to span six and a half months over the coldest period of the year, from October until April. To date, the Care Shelter has provided over 91,500 bed spaces in total, with over 8,000 beds provided this past winter alone.

People who stay at the Care Shelter often remark how much they appreciate not only shelter from the elements, hot food and warmth but also the care shown.  One person commented: “Thank you for being there for me and making me feel like a human being. It felt good you always asking how I am, it feels good to know people still care.”

Commenting on the work of the Care Shelter, Alasdair Bennett, 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 7 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.

Care Shelter Manager, Ruth Longmuir, commented: “The Care 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. We aim to meet people’s immediate needs of food, warmth, shelter and compassionate care but also to assist people to move on from their homeless situation.  We’ve had regular visits by medical services, homeless services, agencies that provide support with housing and employment, solicitors and also City of Edinburgh Council housing officers.  They’ve all done tremendous work and we’ve seen lots of people get excellent assistance through connections they’ve made at the Care Shelter.”

Established in 1983, Bethany Christian Trust supports over 7,000 people across Scotland. The charity’s services focus on preventing homelessness as well as alleviating the suffering of people who are homeless.