Edinburgh kirk to provide shelter for homeless

An Edinburgh kirk has undergone a £220,000 revamp to provide a care shelter for close to 100 homeless people.

Sunday, 7th April 2019, 15:50 pm
Updated Sunday, 7th April 2019, 15:59 pm
An Edinburgh kirk has undergone a £220,000 revamp to provide a care shelter for close to 100 homeless people. Picture: SWNS

The conversion of one of the city’s Church of Scotland kirks means 75 people who usually sleep in doorways and graveyards have somewhere warm and safe to sleep.

The wooden pews in the red brick sanctuary have been removed and replaced with single beds with linen.

While the vestry and small rooms have been turned into toilet and shower facilities for women, whose sleeping quarters are in a separate area of the sanctuary.

The conversion of one of the city's Church of Scotland kirks means 75 people who usually sleep in doorways and graveyards have somewhere warm and safe to sleep. Picture: SWNS

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A new extension has been added to the former Stenhouse St Aidan’s Parish Church building on Chesser Avenue to house a toilet block and showers for men.

The building, which dates from 1935, has been renamed Diadem and volunteers from around 70 church congregations in Edinburgh use the kitchen to cook a two-course evening meal for service users each night.

The emergency accommodation project, which opened on December 21 last year on a trial basis, is a joint venture between Gorgie, Dalry, Stenhouse Church of Scotland and Bethany Christian Trust.

To date, the shelter - which is open from 9pm until 6.30am - has welcomed 653 different individuals and provided 10,767 bed spaces.

An average of 60 people use the facility each night with many being ferried to the site by minibus.

A secondhand clothes bank, which also provides new underwear and sanitary products, is available and a light breakfast is served in the morning.

Representatives from different support services also visit the project on a regular basis to offer specialised advice to clients in a bid to help them get their lives back on track.

The care shelter began in Edinburgh as a two-week pilot in 1996 and has grown to 32 weeks, covering the coldest months of the year.

Up until now the project rotated round different church venues in Edinburgh and service users slept on mats on the floor.

Gorgie, Dalry Stenhouse Church building manager David MacLennan, said: “The pilot project has been a resounding success.

“Jesus had a great concern for the poor and the outcast and we strongly believe that we must share God’s love for those who are less fortunate than ourselves.”

“The feedback from clients has been very positive.

“One lady was literally dancing with joy at the prospect of having the comfort of a bed and a hot shower.

“We hope that the care shelter which is closing for the summer on May 5, will reopen on a permanent basis in mid-September once the necessary permissions are in place.”

Ruth Longmuir, care van and care shelter manager of Bethany Christian Trust, said: “Diadem is a wonderful venue and we are delighted to be based there.

“The raised beds and shower facilities have made a huge difference to our guests.

“We are thankful that Gorgie Dalry Stenhouse Church shares our vision for the Care Shelter and have so generously provided this building for our longterm use.”

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