Charitable mission to keep Capital’s homeless warm this winter

Representatives of Capital charities prepare to hand out the bags.
Representatives of Capital charities prepare to hand out the bags.
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The Capital has endured a high volume of sub-zero temperatures during a bitter winter with most of us being able to return to the comfort and warmth of their home.

But an alarming number of people in Edinburgh do not have that luxury. They are freezing cold on street corners trying to find shelter from the cold wind.

Over the festive period, the Evening News ran the Edinburgh Cheers campaign with the aim of making the city the Capital of compassion.

Gamechanger, the public social partnership involving Hibernian FC, Hibernian Community Foundation and NHS Lothian, highlighted homelessness as an issue to help address as part of the campaign.

The partnership has purchased more than 50 four-season sleeping bags for those currently living on the streets in the city through funds donated by Network Rail and privately.

Leeann Dempster, chief executive of Hibernian Football Club, said: “We understand that Edinburgh, like many cities, has an issue with the amount of people who are homeless. Obviously we are looking to the long term to try and get these people off the streets and into accommodation. But we also need to be looking short term too. We spoke with a number of homeless charities and the feedback we received suggested a requirement for all weather sleeping bags.

“A lot of people on the streets have sleeping bags but they will not keep them warm in these sub-zero temperatures.

“We are very pleased with the response we got and appreciate the help we have got from Network Rail and Vango.

“A lot of individuals have benefitted from this idea and it’s great to know we can help.”

The sleeping bags, provided at cost price by manufacturer Vango, have been distributed by a number of charities actively working on the streets. One of those is Cyrenians, which provides help and advice to the homeless so they get the best use of support services in Edinburgh.

Mike Wright, Cyrenians outreach services manager, said: “Although we at Cyrenians work towards a world where having your own home is a basic right afforded to all, we are painfully aware that there are still people who are forced to sleep outside in Edinburgh.

“The kindness of the Gamechanger appeal allows us not only to alleviate the awful experience of having to sleep outside for rough sleepers but also to remind them that there are people who care and want to help.

“Nobody chooses to be homeless, and no-one wants to experience the horrors of sleeping rough, and for those caught in this situation, we provide flexible and personalised support through our outreach services at a time and place that suits them in order to help build a life away from the streets.”

The Christmas Cheers campaign proved a success and received support from across the city including Hearts, Hibs, NHS Lothian, the Scottish Government, Tesco, Central Taxis and City Cabs.

Ms Dempster added: “The Edinburgh Cheer campaign was a great initiative and hopefully the city can build on this for future years.”