Edinburgh’s Welcome Centre reopens doors for people facing homelessness this winter

The City of Edinburgh Council and national homelessness charity Bethany Christian Trust have re-opened the Welcome Centre this winter to provide accommodation of last resort, tailored support and positive move on options for people who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets.

Edinburgh’s Welcome Centre reopens doors for people facing homelessness this winter

Visiting one of the Welcome Centre rooms, Cllr Kate Campbell, Bethany Christian Trust Chief Executive Alasdair Bennett, Cllr Mandy Watt, Ruth Longmuir Welcome Centre Manager.

Having opened on October 4, The Welcome Centre will operate until 2 May 2022 in the Haymarket Hub Hotel in Edinburgh’s West End.

Founded by Bethany Christian Trust in partnership with the council, and supported by the Scottish Government, the Welcome Centre was pioneered last year in an emergency response to the outbreak of Covid-19, providing en-suite rooms as a deliberate move away from congregate shelter provision, and has since helped to establish a new model of tailored support for people rough sleeping.

Ahead of World Homeless Day yesterday, the council’s convener and vice convener for housing, homelessness and fair work, Councillor Kate Campbell and Councillor Mandy Watt, together with Bethany’s chief executive, Alasdair Bennett visited the Welcome Centre to meet some of the front-line staff from both the council and Bethany Christian Trust that manage, work and volunteer at the facility and offer vital support for its service users.

Edinburgh’s Welcome Centre reopens doors for people facing homelessness this winter

Diana and Monika, Bethany Christian Trust Welcome Centre Staff, Cllr Mandy Watt, Cllr Kate Campbell.

The Welcome Centre takes an innovative and person-centred approach, providing 24-hour tailored support for individuals all in one place. Guests receive their own en-suite room and 3 meals a day, including a hot evening meal prepared by volunteers.

Crucially they are also able to work with dedicated staff and visiting professional services with support to access longer-term accommodation as well as on site assistance with mental health, addiction, wellbeing, health needs and accessing benefits.

Councillor Kate Campbell, said: “It’s been inspiring to meet residents, staff and volunteers at the Welcome Centre. Everyone is united in a strong desire to end rough sleeping and the Welcome Centre plays a crucial role. It’s somewhere that anyone who is at risk of rough sleeping can go and have a place to stay that night.

Edinburgh’s Welcome Centre reopens doors for people facing homelessness this winter

Jamie Nelson Haymarket Hub Hotel Manager, Ruth Longmuir Welcome Centre Manager, Laura WC team member, Cllr Kate Campbell and Cllr Mandy Watt.

“But it can’t stop there. Which is why it’s been so good to see so many partners working together, from the third sector, health and social care and the council, to make sure that anyone who stays at the centre has support wrapped around them. From advice to health care and support to register as homeless.

“Bethany’s Welcome Centre has to be a first step on resolving people’s homelessness long term. And the warm welcome and support they are given here is vital to building trust and relationships that enable that journey to begin.”

Councillor Mandy Watt, added: “It’s been fantastic meeting everyone here at the Welcome Centre and seeing the vital work that they do. But on World Homelessness Day it’s important to say that our long term goal is to prevent homelessness in the first place. Which is why our Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan is not just focused on how we resolve rough sleeping, or improving temporary accommodation, but on long term actions we can take.

Edinburgh’s Welcome Centre reopens doors for people facing homelessness this winter

“It’s crucial that we prevent homelessness by supporting people early on when they’re at risk of losing their home. Ultimately I think we all want to get to a place where there isn’t a need for the Welcome Centre, because we’re able to intervene to make sure that in the future no one faces being without a home or having to sleep on the streets.”

Cameron Black, director of Crisis Intervention, Bethany Christian Trust, commented: “People need genuine support when they are having the worst day of their lives and that is what they find at the Welcome Centre. The staff are there for people 24 hours a day to offer professional and real care. We are so grateful to the Edinburgh Collection Hotel’s accommodation and our partner agencies who go the extra mile to bring their expertise to where people are. All of the support from volunteers from the local churches and all who help fund this innovative project saves lives. We just couldn’t do it without you!”

Relying on the financial support of the general public, local churches, trusts, businesses, the City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government, the Welcome Centre shows what can be possible when the people of Edinburgh come together to create change.

Edinburgh’s Welcome Centre reopens doors for people facing homelessness this winter

A member of the Welcome Centre team greets a guest.

With a large professional staff team, over 1,000 Bethany volunteers and more than 20 visiting partner services, the Welcome Centre saw remarkable success in 2020 – 2021 in helping people recover from the crisis of homelessness and move on to a more stable situation. The service accommodated and supported over 860 individuals who had fallen into homelessness because of a wide range of circumstances as well as those rough sleeping, with 97% of known outcomes positive.

Bethany’s Buy a Bed campaign, which is vital in enabling the service, will launch on October 18 and gift vouchers can be purchased in Bethany Shops and online.

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