Homelessness in Edinburgh: We have a responsibility to provide safe and secure lives for all – Angus Robertson MSP

The battle to tackle homelessness in Edinburgh is a long and challenging one, but one which is making major progress.

There is still much work to be done to tackle homelessness (Picture: Phil Wilkinson)
There is still much work to be done to tackle homelessness (Picture: Phil Wilkinson)

Scottish Government figures show that last year homelessness dropped by 44 per cent. There was also a 35 per cent drop in people becoming homeless. Nonetheless, there is still much work to be done to make sure nobody is without a home.

One organisation doing extraordinary work to tackle homelessness is the charity Four Square Scotland, which provides support, accommodation and employability skills to people who have experienced homelessness.

Run by CEO Jane Devine, Four Square supports 1000 people across Edinburgh every year. They operate hostels for young people aged 16-25 who are homeless and a women’s refuge for women fleeing domestic abuse and gender-based violence.

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The charity also provides community-based support for people worried about losing their home or who are in unsuitable accommodation and runs projects for women in the community who are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse. Four Square runs a student programme for social work and counselling students looking for experiences as part of their qualifications.

A key fundraising part of their organisation is the Edinburgh Furniture Initiative, which has just re-opened in a new superstore in Gorgie. The EFI takes and cleans donated furniture to sell or deliver them to people who want them and people who need them.

Every year they take 12,000kg of donations of furniture. At 21,000 square feet, their new superstore is believed to be the largest reuse store in Scotland.

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Angus Robertson with Jane Devine of charity Four Square Scotland

Their new store has allowed them to increase fundraising targets and they aim to raise £1.2 million, of which about 50 per cent of that is profit that goes straight to their wider charity to support people who are facing homelessness.

The charity itself has provided job opportunities for those who have experienced homelessness; 30 per cent of the 80 staff members across Four Square have been homeless at some point in their lives.

Of the 80 staff, 20 people work in EFI, answering the phone, driving the vans, supporting customers, cleaning and pricing furniture, and moving furniture. They have staff who have secured full-time roles through volunteering and through the government-sponsored Kick Start Scheme.

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Jane Devine is insistent that these are not just stop-gap roles, but top-quality jobs where people can grow. Four Square uses additional monies to invest in career development through training and positive work environments and good pay.

Of course, Four Square is one of a number of homelessness charities in Edinburgh and Scotland, and many others do brilliant work to support those who experience homelessness. Social Bite, Thistle Foundation, The Rock Trust, Shelter Scotland and more run various schemes to help the homeless find accommodation, work and greater security.

As the Scottish capital, we have a responsibility to show how we can provide safe and secure lives for all citizens of the city. As constituency MSP for Edinburgh Central, I will continue to work with homelessness charities, the police and social services to further reduce the presence of homelessness in the city.

Four Square is keen to attract more donations, customers and volunteers to the new store. All details are available on www.foursquare.org.uk. To donate furniture people should call 0131 557 7900.

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Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary

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