This winter, 746 people (82% men and 18% women) have accessed the Winter Care Shelter run by homelessness charity, Bethany Christian Trust.

For the past 32 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 12 partner agencies, the Care Shelter has prepared a total of 15,680 meals and provided 13,118 bed spaces for people who would otherwise have been sleeping rough in Edinburgh.

The Care Shelter is currently operated by a team of 14 professional support staff and relies on around 1,000 volunteers from 72 churches across the Lothians. This year’s fixed season location at Diadem on Gorgie Road ensured that Bethany staff could offer much improved facilities and a safe and warm night’s sleep to people who are faced with the crisis of rough sleeping. The Care Shelter regularly supported over 70 individuals a night during the coldest months and averaged 59 people nightly across the whole season.

Started in Edinburgh in 1996 with a two-week pilot over Christmas, Bethany’s Care Shelter has grown to 32 weeks in response to need and is a lifeline for hundreds of people who would otherwise be forced to sleep outside in the cold. To date, the Care Shelter has provided over 104,000 bed spaces in total, with over 13,000 beds provided this past season 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 woman, Rowena, commented: “I met so many good people at the Care Shelter. After having nowhere it was amazing to sleep in a proper bed, eat good food and experience the genuine love from staff whilst I was there. They all supported me.” Rowena was supported to move in to a resettlement flat within Bethany House.

Commenting on the work of the Care Shelter, Alasdair Bennett, Chief Executive of Bethany Christian Trust, said:

We live in challenging times, in a contrast between aspiration and present reality, between what everyone knows shouldn’t be the case and what is the case on our own streets. The collective cross-sector motivation to end homelessness is very high, and yet we have seen a greater number of unique individuals supported at the Care Shelter in 2019 than in any previous year.

Greater investment and action is needed by all of us to reverse this trend. Today I want to sincerely thank all the staff and church volunteer teams who have communicated hope and kindness to our guests and who together with our 12 partner agencies have been very successful in rapidly re-accommodating hundreds of people.

Care Shelter Manager, Ruth Longmuir, commented:

The Care Shelter exists to prevent people from having to sleep rough during the coldest months when there is a potential risk to life. Sadly, this has been the busiest season for the Care Shelter since it began 22 winters ago. The Care Shelter meets an immediate and urgent need and provides multiple pathways out of homelessness for people in a rough sleeping crisis. We are grateful to our partner organisations who visit the Care Shelter on a regular basis and provide specialist support including medical, employment, housing support and advice.

 

Established in 1983, Bethany Christian Trust supports almost 7,000 people each year across Scotland. Bethany provides high quality support services and accommodation for people who are at risk of becoming homeless, people who are currently homeless, and people who have been homeless but now have their own home. This integrated approach is reflected through a suite of life-changing services.