Homelessness charity’s choir helps Edinburgh man find a home and family off the streets
Kenyan-born Benson is a member of Lost and Found Choir, an Edinburgh-based men’s choir run by homelessness charity Bethany Christian Trust.
The choir members, like Benson, are all there for one reason – to use their voice within a community they call home. For some of them, home is a transient word as many of the members are homeless or have previously experienced episodes of homelessness at some point in their lives.
Before Benson joined the Bethany choir, he too found himself alone on the streets without a bed to sleep.
He said: “In early 2014 I arrived in Scotland from London. I worked as a security guard but at the end of the year, I lost my job so I was asked to leave my rented room. I would walk the streets and sit in Waverly train station and the City Library to keep warm. One night I went to the Bethany Winter Care Shelter.”
Benson stayed in the Winter Care Shelter for three week in early 2015; but in the spring of that same year, Benson was able to move out of the Shelter into temporary accommodation where he lives today. Bethany’s Winter Care Shelter provides a free night shelter and sleeping facilities to people who are homeless. Started in Edinburgh in 1996 with a 2-week pilot over Christmas, the Shelter has grown over the years to span six and a half months, providing overnight shelter every day of the week from October until April.
Benson added: “I first heard about the choir through the Care Shelter. The choir is like a family for me. I’m in three choirs: Lost and Found with Bethany, one with Crisis and one at the Grassmarket Community Project. I mostly like gospel music.”
Today, while Benson is no longer seeking emergency services like the Winter Care Shelter; he must navigate the difficulties that come with living in temporary accommodation.
He said: “I am still in temporary accommodation but to me there is life where I live now, a simple life but it’s my life. I have a lawyer helping me to get a pension as I only have £60 a week for electricity and food. Every Thursday I go to the Council to collect money and top up my electricity. I also attend Crisis community projects and I’m part of the ‘A-Team Homeless Action Group’ for people in temporary accommodation to contribute to how these can be improved.”
But one thing’s for sure, the role that the Lost and Found choir has played in Benson’s journey out of homelessness has been tremendous. Today, Benson is celebrating his 70th birthday – off the streets and singing a new tune with his choir family.
He added: “The Choir has freed me of stress and has increased my self-esteem and confidence in myself. I’ve met so many people with different ideas such that I’m always learning. Now I never feel alone.
“I am so grateful to Bethany for supporting people like me. The Care Shelter saved my life. I was so stressed when I was sleeping rough, but I discovered that singing released my stress. When you sing, you don’t have time to think about anything else. That’s what I use singing to do. That’s why I’m here at the Choir. It is free to sing and when I sing I feel good.”