Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Befrienders help turn houses into homes

April 15 2011
Edinburgh Cyrenians celebrate a successful campaign

Edinburgh Cyrenians is celebrating the success of its Be-A-Friend campaign, launched in February in order to boost a shortage of befrienders needed to help people at risk of becoming homeless.

Two months ago, the charity had a waiting list and estimated that nearly 40 people who might have benefited from being matched with a befriender had missed out on vital support.

Yet, following their first recruitment drive of the campaign, the Cyrenians have attracted nine volunteers who are now preparing to take up their new roles. While recruitment will continue throughout the year, the charity is confident that with new volunteers in place, they can start to make the most of the service. The volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds and include those who have been at risk of becoming homeless themselves and understand the value of a friendly ear.

The charity, which offers befrienders as part of its wider Homelessness Prevention Service (HPS) in Edinburgh, provides training and sets out clear objectives for the project. The organisation helps volunteers make a long-term difference to people’s lives.

Su Moir, Homelessness Prevention Service Manager, said: “Preventing homelessness is not just about providing housing. It’s also about making sure people feel secure in the place they have been housed, that they are comfortable and secure there – that it is a home. “It’s easy to give vulnerable people support with budgeting or getting their benefits sorted. But for people who are simply lonely or isolated, the solutions are much harder – that’s why we link our homelessness prevention strategy with a befriending service.

‘The key difference about this befriending scheme is that we have a very clear set of aims to help ensure that people have an increased social network at the end of the process. The befrienders help people find out what is going on in their local area – be it an art class, or a choir, or a five-a-side football team. As long as it’s legal and ethical we encourage them to get involved.

‘In turn people who are linked into their communities are happier with their lives and that allows them to move on, to look for opportunities in training or employment, which takes them further away from the risk of homelessness.”

David Scott became a befriender after being made redundant in December 2009 and believes the experience taught him a valuable lesson. He said: “Losing my job gave me an insight into how easily and how quickly someone can go from top to bottom. Luckily I had my family and friends to support me but for those that don’t, life can be difficult.

‘Being a Cyrenian’s befriender has taught me I can make a difference, no matter how small, and I’d urge people to give it a try and see how rewarding it can be for them.”