There's more to homelessness than no home - Ewan Aitken

​The old adage “lies, damn lies and statistics” makes me wary of starting any conversation with numbers, but right now there are three numbers which cause me great concern.
Ewan Aitken, CEO Cyrenians ScotlandEwan Aitken, CEO Cyrenians Scotland
Ewan Aitken, CEO Cyrenians Scotland

5000: the number of households in temporary accommodation in Edinburgh – that’s households, not individuals.

611: the average number of days a family with children will spend in temporary accommodation before settled accommodation becomes available.

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1 in 100: the number of people in Scotland who have faced homeless in the last year.

Much has been said about Edinburgh’s housing emergency, something impacting not just those who are homeless themselves, but the whole city.

This week I am meeting the Housing Minister, along with the Chamber of Commerce and City Council, to ask for £400m of additional investment in social housing. The lack of social housing impacts every aspect of life in our city. The problem is so great, we need solutions of equal magnitude.

Housing is crucial, but it’s a long-term solution. We need to help those facing the crisis of homelessness right now, and we need to invest in preventing homelessness - which requires much more than housing.

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Another statistic: 50 per cent of those who present as homeless require additional support, as well as a home. Whether it’s poverty, trauma, mental health or trouble at home, homelessness doesn’t come from nowhere. It’s a symptom of years of being hurt and let down.

Without the space, time and safety to address these issues, 1 in 8 people will end up back in homelessness within five years.

It takes time and trust to make lasting change even after you get keys to a settled home. That’s why, if you were to ask me what we do at Cyrenians, I’d say that we take the time needed to build the trusted relationships required to help folk deal with the root causes of their homelessness, as well as the lack of a home, working with people on their own terms to help them break out of homelessness for good.

For many, the biggest challenge is not finding somewhere to call home, important as that is, but having somewhere safe to begin the healing required - healing from the kinds of trauma that make homelessness a risk, as well as the trauma of homelessness itself.

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That 611-day wait that families face carries with it the huge stress of instability - challenges with keeping a job, maintaining relationships, managing stigma - and often all in property which doesn’t meet the legal standards for temporary accommodation, but is all that’s available as the housing crisis grows.

One small sign of hope in all this is how much the city and its institutions are now collaborating to find real solutions. The conversations I am having with business and public sector are all “What can we do to help?” - which is heartening.

The delegation mentioned above is just one example. And you can help too. This winter, Cyrenians is asking people to help create room to heal, helping people not just towards a home but towards a brighter, more stable future.

No matter how much or how little, your gift could provide trust and support. A safe place to stay. Confidence and independence. A positive future. The things we all want for ourselves and our families. Give the gift of healing at cyrenians.scot/give.