New homeless shelter for Edinburgh's homeless opens after stats show 22 died on city's streets

Steps to Hope: Emergency shelter founder Richard Roncero.Steps to Hope: Emergency shelter founder Richard Roncero.
Steps to Hope: Emergency shelter founder Richard Roncero.
Extra beds will be added after six weeks to offer a night shelter to 25 vulnerable people

A new emergency shelter for Edinburgh’s homeless has opened in a bid to beat rough sleeping.

The service, run by Steps to Hope, is based at St Cuthbert’s Church and will provide six “safe” and “supported” beds to people who would otherwise be on the streets.

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After an initial six week period, extra beds will be added until the service is operating at full capacity, offering night shelter to 25 vulnerable people.

This service opens as new statistics by the National Records of Scotland reveal that 22 homeless people died in the Capital both in 2017 and 2018.

Founder of Steps to Hope Richard Roncero said that he hopes the night shelter will allow his charity to engage with homeless people and help them get off the street.

Shelter one day a week

He said “Having a shelter one day a week is not the final solution to the problem of homelessness but it allows us to engage with people who usually fall through the system and find permanent solutions for these individuals.”

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Steps to Hope already operates a soup kitchen from the church hall which feeds between 80 and 100 people every Sunday. After the evening meal finishes at 8pm, the space will be transformed into a night service. After a quick turn around the service will reopen to offer six people who would otherwise be sleeping on the street a bed for the night.

The group will watch a film, sleep in a safe environment and have the reassurance of a ‘proper breakfast’ at 9am the next morning.

Richard will run the shelter with the support of Gary Amos, 54 who has volunteered with the charity since his 23-year-old son Adam died of substance-related issues last year.

He said that if his son had access to this kind of support he: “truly believes Adam would still be here today”.

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Last month, it was revealed that housing chiefs in the Capital failed to accommodate homeless people almost 1,500 times from 2017 to 2019. In 80 per cent of those cases, the homeless people lost their accommodation through their own actions – including 17 per cent for drug taking.

Richard said: “The problem of homelessness and addiction is complicated. I don’t think people should be let off what they have done but I do think there must be a better option than the current system.”

The team at Steps to Hope have become frustrated with lack of funding from the local authority as well as the Scottish and UK governments.

Richard said: “ We work with the job centre who send people directly to us for help. Edinburgh Council and government are leaning on us heavily to help solve the problem but they are not giving us any support to carry out our work.”

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A spokesperson for Edinburgh City Council said: “We’re working extremely hard with our partners to break down barriers to support and provide street-based outreach 365 days a year to people without a home.

“There are now 65 spaces over three sites that can be accessed in this way and we’ll continue to develop this.”