Hostel solution to help Edinburgh's rough sleepers

A hostel will be transformed into shelter for rough sleepers after an injection of cash from the Scottish Government.

Thursday, 13th December 2018, 6:36 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th December 2018, 6:50 pm
A rough sleeper in Edinburgh

Edinburgh City Council has approved plans to set up rapid access accommodation for rough sleepers at the Bobby’s Bunkhouse hostel on Merchant Street, which is due to start next week.

The proposals will allow the council to “significantly reduce rough sleeping”. It is estimated that around 80 to 120 people sleep rough in Edinburgh.

The one-year pilot scheme, brought forward by Streetwork, will be funded by £156,000 of Scottish Government money for the first six months, before the city council will match the funding in next year’s budget for the following six months.

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The accommodation would allow 20 beds at Bobby’s Bunkhouse to be purchased at a cost of £24 a night.

Council officers said the scheme would “provide additional direct access accommodation, deliver a valuable alternative to traditional care shelters and to obtain learning to further develop services to best meet the needs of rough sleepers”.

An initial pilot of rapid access accommodation at the Hopetoun Guest House earlier this year saw 71 per cent of ­residents benefiting from “positive outcomes”.

The rapid access accommodation has no curfew for residents. Council officers added: “Given that many rough sleepers experienced mental health and addiction issues, a high tolerance approach to possible disruptive behaviour was required to maintain engagement.”

Housing and economy convener, Cllr Kate Campbell, said: “People referred to our rapid access accommodation are ­likely to have been rough sleeping and have multiple and complex needs. They will be some of the most vulnerable adults in the city.

“The model is about making it as easy as possible for people to access support – giving people a bed and a safe space, and then supporting them to access benefits and other services, rather than demanding that they attend appointments and fill in application forms before we give them a bed.”

She added: “The results speak for themselves. We’ve had positive outcomes for 71 per cent of people who have accessed our existing rapid access accommodation, which is an incredibly high percentage for people who have been rough sleeping or who have multiple and complex needs.

“We’re delighted that Streetwork put in this application for additional rapid access bed spaces, and that the Scottish Government are supporting the pilot with 50 per cent of the funding. This is exactly the type of service we need to support if we really want to tackle rough sleeping in the city. I’m very glad the report passed unanimously and we can get on with setting up the service and helping people off the streets.”

Housing and economy vice-convener, Cllr Lezley Marion Cameron, said: “We have a number of householders in temporary accommodation.

“It’s a great city to live but it depends on who you are. We have so much work to do on this and we need funding and we need to be brave and bold.”