Edinburgh homeless charity launches appeal for local volunteers

Local charity Rowan Alba is appealing for local volunteers to support The Community Alcohol Related Damages Service which works with people in the capital to provide vital support and social contact to reduce isolation.

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 4:55 am

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CARDS was set up by Rowan Alba in 2010. People are usually referred to the service by health care specialists, GPs, hospitals and mental health services. This can be for a variety of reasons such as developing a problematic relationship with alcohol or becoming isolated.

A team of 60 volunteers are on hand to provide essential social contact and to listen without judgement. They deliver one to one emotional support to 80 clients across the city once a week. Volunteers are trained on how to deal with older people with alcohol issues who have experienced years of trauma, homelessness, abuse or spent time in prison.

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CARDS volunteers like Paul McCay are a vital lifeline

The charity’s main aim is to break the cycle of homelessness for people considered ‘un-houseable’ by other services. In 2019 there were over 3,300 homeless households in Edinburgh over 300 had experienced sleeping rough.

Paul McCay, a CARDS volunteer for seven years said: “The people we work with are socially isolated, many have anxiety and are disconnected from their communities. Just having someone who consistently shows up, without judgement, to listen, have a chat, listen to music, go for a walk or a coffee can’t be underestimated. The regular contact that volunteers provide can be both life-changing and life-saving.”

CARDS is just one of Rowan Alba’s crucial services, supporting the most vulnerable people across Edinburgh.

The organisation founded the home for life concept with Thorntree Street in Leith, providing permanent homes for older men with a long-term history of rough sleeping and street drinking. The charity’s second home for life property will open in Peffermill in 2022.

Rowan Alba also provides temporary supported accommodation at Stramullion in Pilton, supporting women with complex needs to move out of homelessness and into their own home.

Tracey Stewart, Volunteer Service Manager, said: “We have all faced periods of isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic but for those who are referred to CARDS, social isolation is something many have lived with for years. The 1-1 befriending service provided by our volunteers provides vital emotional support, helping clients to re-learn how to manage a trusting relationship with another person.

“CARDS urgently need more volunteers to support our clients across Edinburgh, so we are looking for people who can provide compassionate support for individuals who have had a difficult relationship with alcohol now or in the past. Ideally you will have had experience in a role where managing relationships is key. Being able to listen without judgment and understand the benefit of human contact is vital.”

To apply and become a volunteer at CARDS, visit: https://rowanalba.org/volunteering-for-cards/

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