Princes Street hotel used to support people who are homeless during pandemic



National homelessness charity Bethany Christian Trust and the City of Edinburgh Council are partnering to provide further hotel accommodation and specialised support for people who would otherwise be sleeping rough in the capital.

A bedroom in the Old Waverley Hotel

Working together on a range of services, this latest initiative ensures single occupancy en-suite bedroom accommodation as an alternative venue for Bethany’s Care Shelter and provides additional temporary accommodation for the local authority. 

The Care Shelter service would have completed its 32-week season at the beginning of May but will now extend for a further two months beyond this in a new venue until early July 2020.

Bethany is relocating its Care Shelter team of 14 professional support staff to the Old Waverley Hotel on the capital’s iconic Princes Street and council staff are working flexibly at short notice to join the team during daytime hours to provide advice, support and positive move on options for guests in this new environment.

The Old Waverley Hotel on Princes Street

The project is dependent on the tremendous goodwill of hundreds of volunteers from the Christian community who also provide the fresh ingredients for the two course hot meals prepared in advance to serve at the hotel with current safe distancing measures.  

Providing a safe place to sleep, three meals a day and a range of support from experienced staff and multiple partner agencies including health, housing and advocacy support, the service will be a lifeline for many over the next 3 months.   

A volunteer preparing a hot meal

Alasdair Bennett, chief executive of Bethany Christian Trust, said: “The Care Shelter has provided 10,000 bed spaces to 730 unique individuals over the last 200 nights, and we are relieved to now also be able to offer self-contained en-suite accommodation to men and women who have already suffered so much without having to be on the streets any longer. 

“I am very grateful to the support of an anonymous trust who are providing the resources to extend the staffing into the summer, the council for their proactivity in procuring the hotel beds, the Scottish Government for supporting the initiative with significant additional bed purchases, and the Old Waverley Hotel team for stepping forward to make such a positive difference in saving lives.

“This means an amazing amount to the people we support and the next step is to turn this moment into permanently improved solutions for rough sleeping predicaments in our shared national homelessness response.”   

Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council, Councillor Adam McVey, said: “We’ve been working with a number of hotels to provide us with suitable and safe accommodation to help us house anyone without a home. The response has been encouraging and we’ve now secured more than 200 bed spaces in hotels across the city and 66 additional private flats.

“The shelter operated by Bethany Christian Trust is an important refuge for people who might otherwise find themselves rough sleeping, for any number of reasons. These are some of our most vulnerable people and with the outbreak continuing, we’ve been partnering with Bethany to find an alternative place for the shelter they run.

“The Old Waverley Hotel is the ideal city centre spot and I’m grateful that they’ve partnered with us on this. Edinburgh is a city that pulls together in times of need and this is a perfect example of that attitude. Our thanks go to Bethany’s staff and volunteers, who will be on hand day and night at the new shelter to provide meals and a relaxed space for those in need during this challenging time.”

A person who has benefitted from the service

Bethany’s Care Shelter began as a two-week pilot over Christmas in Edinburgh in 1996. It has since grown to operate 32 weeks a year in response to need and is a lifeline for hundreds of people who would otherwise be sleeping outside.  To date, the Care Shelter has provided over 114,000 bed spaces in total, and since re-opening in September 2019 has supported over 680 people in moving on from needing to access the service again.  

Ruth Longmuir, Bethany’s Care Shelter manager, added: “The partnership approach combined with the professional Care Shelter support staff, who work tirelessly and compassionately on behalf of others, results in a positive move on journey for our guests. Being able to offer a hotel facility at this time is a fantastic enhancement. We are indebted to all our church partners including Diadem our existing venue for being so adaptable in rising to the challenges of a new environment.”  

One of the new guests at the service enthused: “What everyone’s done for us here is just a different world. The kindness in here is amazing. There is so much appreciation for this amongst us all tonight.”

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