Why do homeless people ‘vanish’ during the Fringe?

Nick Harrold from Cyrenians finds evidence that rough sleeping areas have not been used recently. Picture: Kieran Murray
Nick Harrold from Cyrenians finds evidence that rough sleeping areas have not been used recently. Picture: Kieran Murray
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A homeless charity support worker feels those living on the streets are pushed out of the city centre during the Fringe.

As Edinburgh’s population triples during August with an influx of visitors desperate to experience the iconic festival, those less fortunate flee to the outskirts of the Capital.

Cyrenians outreach worker Nick Harrold told the Evening News that the highly congested city centre becomes “too busy” for many homeless people.

He said: “Because the population of the city increases so dramatically in such a short space of time you would think it would make begging a more attractive proposition as more people you’d think should equate to more money.

“But I think a lot of people here for the festival are focused on why they’re here – for shows and reservations.

“There’s also a bigger police presence in the city centre for the Fringe and due to the city centre being busy the folk who beg in areas such as Princes Street will disperse to more 
remote locations such as Gorgie and Fountainbridge.”

Nick’s role involves building relationships with the homeless and giving advice so they can gain access to the appropriate services including health and accommodation.

Graveyards such as St Cuthbert’s and Calton Hill Burial Ground are homeless hotspots but both have a reduction in people sleeping in them 
during the Fringe. However a duvet inside a burned-out tomb within the latter suggests it is still being used by some desperate soul for shelter, despite the overbearing smell.

Cyrenians has developed strong relationships with multiple agencies such as the police, council, churches and environmental health as part of the ongoing mission to defeat homelessness.

Nick said: “We all need to work in the same direction to make a real difference. In the cases when we get the best 
results the person has bought into what we do and have helped themselves too. Giving people the power to make the changes for themselves is more likely to stick if they feel they have done it themselves.”

But Nick feels more needs to be done to accommodate the homeless during the Fringe and hopes a multi-agency approach can achieve this for future years.

He said: “We only have the night shelter with Bethany Christian Trust in the winter months and I think it would help during the festival. The only thing is we don’t want people to become reliant on a night shelter as that could be detrimental.

“We want to maintain our relationships with the homeless but it can prove problematic due to them moving in August.

“They are not scary monsters. They’re just like anyone else whose circumstances have unfortunately led them to the position they are in.

“It would be great in future years to try and incorporate them into the festival somehow.

“I am not against the festival at all. I just feel there is a way the city can come together to do something different for those people who sleep on the streets.”

kieran.murray@jpress.co.uk