We've had a couple of reports in recent months on homelessness. I've been to visit the Women's hostel in the south side, an alcohol hostel in my ward, and saw round Bell Street before it closed. Having attended a recent 'one year on' event, I went out on a "shadow shift" last Tuesday night with members of staff from the Glasgow Street Service.
The Street Service is formed from a partnership between the Simon Community and Barnardo's, who previously ran separate services in the city. The website puts it thus:
GSS provides advice and support to access accommodation and other services such as medical, addiction and mental health services.
They offer practical help and emotional support to those sleeping rough, at risk of sleeping rough or becoming homeless and those having difficulties accessing other services.
There's a great deal of behind the scenes work, advocacy and casework that I didn't get to see last Tuesday; what I did do was accompany KB, an outreach worker, as she went round the city centre. KB pointed out spots where people are likely to be found rough sleeping, and talked about the way in which the team go about their work. Contact with their clients comes through face to face interaction, and a free phone number 0800 027 7466. Arrangements are made to meet with clients at times suitable for them and help offered.
The difficulty comes in finding accommodation to prevent people from sleeping outside; there are just not enough beds, or homes for people to move on to. A gap exists between the closure of old, inadequate large scale hostels, and building more small scale units; this is filled to some extent by expensive B&B accommodation and services purchased from other providers.
The locations of various projects were pointed out to me, and I was quite surprised at the number of places in or near the city centre which I had walked passed not knowing their purpose. We visited a project in Tradeston which helps people recover from alcohol problems, and popped into a soup kitchen near Central Station where people can get advice and a hot meal. I was taken aback at the number of people at the soup kitchen. The scale of homelessness in Glasgow is somewhat hidden from view; there are so many who depend on charitable services to help them to get by.
Times are difficult in the Council; spending cut backs are very real. I wonder though how much more services like this can take. This contrasts hugely with the Commonwealth Games (will at least bring more much-needed housing) and the money Labour politicians are demanding for GARL.
As with any visit I've done, I'll certainly think on what I saw and heard, and hope to work towards a better solution. Thanks to all the staff who supported me.