Ending poverty, homelessness and conflict is a struggle in which we can all play a part – Ewan Aitken

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At the launch of the Edinburgh Poverty Commission’s report this week, its chair, Dr Jim McCormack, said “we have made Edinburgh virtually unliveable” when it comes to accessing affordable, safe, secure, quality housing.

He is right. It is a consequence of many decisions across the public, private and the third sector which have created a perfect storm of inaccessibility.

He was right too when he said “we have”, not “they have” or “those in power” or “big developers” or anyone else in particular. He and his fellow commissioners are asking us all to own the problem and then be part of the solution.

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The whole report was focused on how we, all of us, can be part of the solutions we need to make Scotland's capital a place where poverty no longer exists. You can read the report at edinburghpovertycommission.org.uk, it’s about what we can all do to make our city a place for everybody.

My own organisation, Cyrenians, is committed to tackling the causes and consequences of homelessness. Poverty is a huge driver of homelessness, so we will do all we can to make our contribution to achieving the report’s ambition of a “City without Poverty”. I hope you will join us.

I hope too that you will join us in looking at worldwide solutions to another driver for homelessness: conflict and relationship breakdown. In lieu of its annual conference, throughout October Cyrenians’ Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution is embracing the digital revolution to put on a series of events bringing together speakers, filmmakers, writers, and artists from Canada, America, Australia, Zimbabwe, Gaza, and, of course, Scotland who will talk from their heart and experience, combined with the opportunity to engage in interactive workshops and the arts.

The conference will be launched on October 1 with a private screening of the Bafta Scotland award-winning film ‘Nae Pasaran’, followed by an exclusive Q&A with the documentary’s creator, Felipe Bustos Sierra, of Glasgow-based production company Debasers, for an in-depth exploration of the film’s poignant story of solidarity, hope and humility.

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And to mark World Homeless Day next month, we have invited individuals from organisations which are dedicated to ending youth homelessness – Cyrenians, Rock Trust, A Way Home Scotland and A Way Home Canada – to form a discussion panel for the “The past, the present and the future” online event. You can see all the events at scottishconflictresolution.org.uk.

A Palestinian girl stands amid the rubble of her destroyed home in Beit Hanoun, Gaza, in May 2021 (Picture: Fatima Shbair/Getty Images)A Palestinian girl stands amid the rubble of her destroyed home in Beit Hanoun, Gaza, in May 2021 (Picture: Fatima Shbair/Getty Images)
A Palestinian girl stands amid the rubble of her destroyed home in Beit Hanoun, Gaza, in May 2021 (Picture: Fatima Shbair/Getty Images)

And for the final event, I will have the huge privilege of co-hosting an event with Professor Alison Phipps, Unesco chair in refugee integration through languages and the arts at the University of Glasgow, along with – technology permitting – colleagues from Zimbabwe and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

It is their hope that through storytelling, this “Peace-making in a world of conflict” event will draw attendees into a rich world of lived experience so we can better learn from those who have long endured conflict, not least people from the Gaza Strip and Zimbabwe.

Sometimes the problems of the world can often seem too huge for us all to deal with. But through research like the Edinburgh Poverty Commission’s report and events like our international conference, we are reminded how we can, if we choose, really be part of the solution.

Ewan Aitken is CEO of Cyrenians

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