A DEDICATED health centre will be set up in the Old Town to provide homeless people with better access to medical services.
A new Inclusive Homelessness Service will be established on the site of the former Panmure St Ann’s School in South Gray’s Close after plans were approved by the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (EIJB).
The new facility is expected to be completeled by 2020 and will allow NHS Lothian, Edinburgh City Council and third sector partners to work closer together to provide services to the homeless population of the Capital.
The move will help around 1000 homeless people from both the Edinburgh Access Practice and Access Point, bringing together services based at Spittal Street Clinic and Access Point in Leith.
The Edinburgh Access Practice provides GP services to more than 600 people, whilst the Access Point delivers housing support, social work and criminal justice services.
Cllr Ricky Henderson, chair of the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board, welcomed the proposals.
He said: “Panmure represents one of the first major capital projects undertaken on behalf of the EIJB.
“The project seeks to improve the health and wellbeing of some of our most vulnerable, disenfranchised and disengaged citizens, who often exhibit a range of profound and complex needs and who need high levels of support.
“Whilst the building will require some adaptations, I am confident that it is the best location for service users who will benefit from an established one-stop shop.”
The new centre will also welcome third sector partners, including Streetwork and Cyrenians. These partner organisations perform a vital role in supporting Edinburgh’s homeless population and often act as a bridge between homeless people and the services. The project will cost £3 million to convert the premises and around £100,000 a year to run.
Ewan Aitken, chief executive of Cyrenians, said: “One of the biggest challenges that homeless people face is having a myriad of places to go to get help.
“This is provided in one place and it’s about the whole person, not just the medical aspects of what is needed.
“There’s a whole lot of stigma that goes with homelessness and coping with multiple challenges.
“It’s important that the conversation is about them as a person and the stigma they feel can be a huge barrier.”
The project will include four consulting and treatment rooms and eight interview rooms, occupational therapy assessment space and staff workstations.
Housing and economy convener, Cllr Kate Campbell, said: “As the chair of the Homelessness Task Force, this is incredibly welcome.
“Having our housing officers, social work, the NHS and third sector under one roof will mean that we are able to provide support with a much more joined-up approach.
“The investment in the building, and the facilities, will make a huge difference to accessibility and the way people are able to interact with services. This will mean much better outcomes for some of our most vulnerable residents.”