Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

current issue

February – March 2024 : The little things READ ONLINE


Demand increases for Scottish shelters

November 01 2015
Looking for shelter ©Alex Withers, who spent time in Glasgow's winter shelter. Looking for shelter ©Alex Withers, who spent time in Glasgow's winter shelter.
Demand is up, and so are shelters' duration

Scottish winter shelters are extending their opening period because of the growing number of rough sleepers who have nowhere to go.

In Edinburgh, the Bethany Christian Trust, which opened its shelter in mid October, is extending its season by three weeks in response to a demand that has almost doubled in the last three years.

Meanwhile the Glasgow Winter Night Shelter will be moving to the Lodging House Mission, allowing residents better access to services when the day centre opens in the morning.

It will also be extending the season by a month with the help of a donation of £25,000 from the Rangers Charitable Trust.

The grant will also allow the winter shelter team to bring advisors from Govan Law Centre on-site to deliver housing rights advice.

Both shelters have only 40 beds, and are often full, particularly in Edinburgh, where 39 beds were taken on average every night last year. In Glasgow, the shelter was used 1,501 times by 407 people in 2014/5 while the year before it was used 1,273 times by 358 people.

Grant Campbell, chief executive of the Glasgow City Mission, which co-ordinates the winter shelter, said: “The move to Lodging House Mission has given the initiative several improvements. We are really grateful to Renfield St Stephen’s who hosted us for two years; however, Lodging House Mission can open their doors earlier each evening and allow us to stay open longer in the morning.

"Lodging House Mission also provide a cooked breakfast in the morning, which carries on into their regular day service activities. The more quality time we can spend we those in need of assistance, the better the outcomes often are.”

The shelter is also just 100 metres from Hunter Street Homeless Service, a health centre which works with homeless people.

Lodging House Missions Day Centre Manager Mr Neil Watton added: “We are most definitely in favour of the GWNS, and our premises are set up perfectly to provide a safe and warm environment for those experiencing homelessness at night.

“I know in past years the GWNS has saved lives and I am confident it will continue to have a positive impact on the people who use it.”

Alex Withers, who used the winter shelter in Glasgow three years ago when he arrived back in Glasgow from Canada and found himself with nowhere to go, said it was a lifesaving service.

“I found out about it at the Hamish Allan and had to queue for an hour to get a bed,” he said. “But once in I got hot food, a sausage roll, soup, a sandwich and a blanket.

“I didn’t want to end up freezing to death on the streets like some of my friends. I felt secure and safe there and the staff were good.”

However Cameron Black, shelter co-ordinator at the Bethnany Christian Trust, said that its shelter was increasingly seeing people who may be entitled to help but were being turned away from the Council’s housing service without having an assessment done.

This practice, known as “gatekeeping” has been highlighted by charities such as Crisis, in its ‘No-one Turned Away’ campaign.

The organisation says that demand has almost doubled in the last three years. “There are a lot of factors,” said Cameron Black. “There are sanctions and the economic downturn, access to benefits for migrants has tightened, and the local connection rules have changed.

“Over the last year we’ve seen an increase in the number of people using our care van and we hear lots of stories from people who say they are not eligible for help. But what we are finding is that a lot of people have been refused an appointment from the housing assessment team.”

The Edinburgh shelter will remain open until 25 April, with the Glasgow shelter running until 31 March.