UK’s first pedal-powered homeless outreach service launched in Glasgow
The Street Cycles team, run by Simon Community Scotland, are being kitted out with bikes to allow them to help more people, more often, and further out from the charity’s city centre base.
The innovative outreach service – part of the Simon Community’s Street Team – will be staffed exclusively by highly-trained volunteers, who will help the charity rise to the challenge of dealing with the estimated 1,000 people who sleep rough in Glasgow every year.
The project is being launched today with the help of housing minister Kevin Stewart.
Funded by The National Lottery, the Street Cycles project is appealing for people to get involved who want a unique and rewarding volunteering challenge.
The programme will involve extensive training, which - among other things - will involve lifesaving First Aid, including the administration of the opiate reversal drug, Naloxone.
Their specialised training will also include becoming a certified Cycling Scotland Cycle Patroller and reaching Velotech Bronze level, a cycling industry-recognised bike maintenance qualification.
It is believed that this is the UK’s first pedal-powered homeless outreach service: this development is part of Simon Community Scotland’s commitment to provide innovative solutions for the complex issues around homelessness, whilst meeting the changing demands on the street.
Hugh Hill, director of Services at Simon Community Scotland, said: “We are encountering growing numbers of homeless people in the south and west of the city, most of them women concerned about their safety in the city centre.
“Our ability to cover the more outlying parts of the city is inhibited by staff resources, as well as geography. We are bringing in volunteers to increase the scope of our cover and using bikes to reach a wider number of people, increase the visibility of the work we do, and distribute supplies.”
Street Cycles teams will use touring bikes loaded up with ‘basics’ such as food, clothing, First Aid, needle exchange kits, and sleeping bags. They will also be trained in providing psychological counselling and emotional support, plus in giving practical advice on how people might access wider services in the city.
Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “Scotland has some of the strongest housing rights for homeless people anywhere in the world and this year we have set out a clear objective to eradicate rough sleeping, recognising that it requires more than just the provision of housing and that every individual has their own unique needs and challenges.
“We are planning to establish a homelessness and rough sleeping action group to lead change in this area and identify the actions, services and legislative changes required to end rough sleeping and transform the use of temporary accommodation.
“Tackling and preventing homelessness is a key priority for the Scottish Government and I’m delighted to launch this innovative outreach cycle scheme, that will enable Simon Community’s volunteers to help vulnerable people who are sleeping rough in areas outside the city centre.”
Mr Hill added: “The training we will provide volunteers will be extensive - including from some of our staff at Simon Community Scotland, who have first-hand experience of being homeless.
“Providing a needle exchange service, for instance, is a serious undertaking, but will place our volunteers at the frontline of harm reduction in the city.”
The initial funding of £10,000 from the Big Lottery Investing in Ideas Fund will support the setup of the project. In time this will mean a team of 30 volunteers, working in pairs and providing the backbone to a seven days-per-week service.
Maureen McGinn, Big Lottery Fund Scotland chair, said: “This National Lottery funding will help Simon Community Scotland be able to reach people who are sleeping rough in areas outside the city centre more swiftly and provide them with food, clothing and any advice they need.
“This is life-changing money, making a difference where, and when, it is needed most.”
People who think they have what it takes to rise to this unique volunteering opportunity are encouraged to visit http://www.simonscotland.org/support-us/volunteer-with-us/ to register their interest.
Images provided courtesy of Euan Robertson