Community cop looks out for Edinburgh’s homeless

Constable Liam Coleman with Michael McGraw from the Salvation Army and Craig Peterson from The Kilt Hire Co with some of the socks which will be donated to the homeless. Picture: Jon Savage
Constable Liam Coleman with Michael McGraw from the Salvation Army and Craig Peterson from The Kilt Hire Co with some of the socks which will be donated to the homeless. Picture: Jon Savage
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He spends his days looking out for the welfare of the Capital’s homeless population.

And as he returned a hired kilt, PC Liam Coleman had an idea that would help some of Edinburgh’s most vulnerable people cope as the weather worsens.

The West End community police officer makes daily welfare checks on people sleeping rough.

He often finds they are ill prepared for the winter weather - suffering from trenchfoot or even frost bite.

When he was told the socks as part of his hired kilt would be binned if he didn’t want to keep them, he asked if they could be donated instead.

His request sparked a charity link up between The Kilt Hire Company in Haymarket and the Salvation Army.

“We do a lot of work with the Salvation Army,” explained PC Coleman.

“They do their best but are often short of key items and socks are a well-sought after piece of clothing for those sleeping rough.”

And the Kilt Hire Company supervisor Craig Paterson said customers were normally given the choice to keep the socks, which are part of the hire price.

“Now we explain to customers that if they return the socks they will be going to a good cause and so far everybody has been completely behind the idea,” said Craig.

“It was a no brainer for us a business.

“We’re always one for supporting charities – we are a company that looks after the community.

“Everyone is very keen on this idea and if it’s going to help homeless people in the community then I am all for getting involved.”

And with up to 70 pairs of socks being hired per weekend at The Kilt Hire Company, Salvation Army senior support worker Michael McGraw is hopeful it will make a big difference.

“At the drop-in centre on Niddry Street we try and provide whatever we can for whoever comes through the door,” he said.

“Everything from socks to blankets to toiletries and coats is so helpful.

“It’s amazing how someone can come in, have a bite to eat and a change of socks and they leave again with a spring in their step. It’s as simple as that.”

And PC Coleman, who has over the last year has seen everything from trench foot to frostbite in Edinburgh city centre said helping with the most basic of human necessities is worth it.

“Socks can deteriorate quite rapidly when living out of doors permanently so a decent pair is a very important thing.”

PC Coleman added: “It was seeing a homeless man in a state of destitution earlier in the year that made me try and think of something simple we could to help in some way.

“Without the help of the Salvation Army there would be more deaths on the streets and that is the harsh reality of the situation.”

And with limited resources and squeezed budgets, policing social problems such as rough sleeping now needs a more creative approach.

Sgt Bob Mason, who leads the West End community team, said such ‘out-the-box’ thinking can help minimise the knock-on effect of the health impacts of poor clothing for those sleeping rough in winter, which in turn, can also relieve pressures on other services.

fiona.pringle@jpress.co.uk