Case study: Edinburgh Winter Care Shelter saved my life

An Edinburgh man details how a Winter Care Shelter, run by homelessness charity Bethany Christian Trust, helped him break out the cycle of homelessness and saved his life from last year’s winter weather.

Paul was previously homeless in Scotland’s capital city; something he recalls was a consequence of a series of unfortunate events that occurred in his life.

“Some years ago, epilepsy stopped me from working as I could no longer drive or work safely without close supervision. Bored, depressed, frightened and frustrated I sought solace in alcohol but that only made things worse. It was a vicious circle. I stopped regularly taking my medication and bit by bit I lost almost everything, including the roof over my head.”

Like many people who are homeless in Scotland, Paul found himself without suitable accommodation and was forced to sleep rough on many occasions. “The street is a rough place to be. It’s hard to keep everything together.”

Paul’s situation radically changed when he found the Winter Care Shelter, an emergency accommodation project run by homelessness charity, Bethany Christian Trust. Last winter, Paul spent a total of 26 nights at the Shelter. “I don’t remember how I found my way to the Bethany Christian Trust Winter Care Shelter but I’m really glad I did as it has changed my life. The Shelter is the reason that I’m sitting here today.”

Started in Edinburgh in 1996 with a two-week pilot over Christmas, the Care Shelter has grown over the years to span seven and a half months over the winter, from September until May. The service is run by a small team of staff and relies on around 1,000 volunteers from churches across the Lothians. They provide church venues for people who are homeless to sleep in on a nightly rota basis as well as providing and serving a hot meal. The service is funded by the voluntary donations of trusts and foundations, individuals and communities, as well as receiving funds from Bethany’s ‘Buy a Bed’ campaign, which asks supporters to purchase a gift to fund a bed at the Winter Care Shelter.

For every £21 voucher purchased, the Edinburgh Care Shelter provides a person who would otherwise be sleeping rough, homeless on the streets, the following assistance: safe and warm overnight shelter; care and support from professional staff; access to freshly prepared meals; and individual support to move out of the crisis of homelessness. After raising £8k from last year’s campaign, Bethany are launching the ‘Buy a Bed’ voucher scheme for the second year in a row.

Today, Paul is living at Bethany Christian Centre, a specialised addiction recovery project for homeless men, run by Bethany Christian Trust. There he is rediscovering many meaningful aspects of his life that were once obscured by his housing crisis.

“I really felt a sense of being valued when I stayed at the Care Shelter. I learned about Bethany Christian Centre, an addiction recovery unit run by Bethany. I attended an interview and was granted a place. I have been living in Bethany Christian Centre since that time. My health is stable and my life has structure, purpose and meaning. My confidence is back. I have rediscovered my faith and am now very involved with Destiny Church; serving, stewarding and cooking for Alpha course groups.

“I owe Bethany my life. Without the Care Shelter and Bethany Christian Centre I would most likely be dead by now. In 2019 I will be looking for a house of my own and am looking forward to the future for the first time in a long time.”

If you would like to support people like Paul, who are homeless and faced with the crisis of sleeping rough, please support Bethany’s ‘Buy a Bed’ campaign where you can purchase a Care Shelter Gift and help save a life this winter.

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