Rowan Alba

The latest Homeless Spotlight participant is Rowan Alba, a charity working in Edinburgh, Perth and Kinross and Angus offering a range of services to people who are, or are at risk of becoming homeless.

Rowan AlbaNow in its tenth year of independent operation, Rowan Alba has helped around 5000 people in the past decade. The charity’s CEO, Helen Carlin, talks to Scottish Housing News.

What particular challenges are your staff and service users faced with and how has this changed over recent years?

These are challenging times in this line of work; we as many others are trying to do more for less. The impact of changes to the benefits system is starting to hit. I can’t think of a time in a long history of working in the sector when vulnerable people have been so vilified for their circumstances, whilst there is so much evidence to suggest that they end up homeless due to a combination of circumstances beyond their control, and that judgement and short term solutions won’t make this any better.

Does your work ever coincide with that of housing associations/social landlords? How important a role do they play in tackling homelessness?

For a lot of our clients, a lot more is required than just a roof over their head. The social housing sector has so much to offer in this regard, and has done so much to provide affordable, quality accommodation for people, and continues to do so in spite of the decrease in funding to them through HAG.

Helen Carlin
Helen Carlin

As you are celebrating your 10th anniversary as a charity this year, what achievements are you most proud of over the last ten years?

I am pleased that we have helped so many people, and used the learning and feedback from that to develop new services such as ‘Follow Me’ which can offer longer term support to people having experienced domestic abuse or having been involved in the criminal justice system, and has reduced repeat homelessness and reoffending by 60 per cent. In all our services, the user is enabled to move forward, and our coaching approach is a key ingredient in this success.

I guess the “jewel in our crown” is our Thorntree Street service in Edinburgh, where 12 previously homeless men with alcohol issues aged 50+ enjoy their own home with the full security of a tenancy. We developed this in partnership with Bield Housing Association, and would love to be able to do another one; there is certainly plenty of need for it.

What is the organisation planning as a way of celebrating the anniversary?

In our tenth year we will celebrating our success with various events, such as our charity golf tournament on 2nd September 2016, and a ceilidh in October, as well as lots of fun stuff with our service users.

Thorntree Street
Thorntree Street

Tell us about your ‘Give US 10’ campaign?

We have a “give us 10” fundraising campaign at the moment, and hope to raise funds to allow us to develop more services to more people, you can find it at

Hopes and aspirations for the next ten years?

For the next ten years, our aim is to extend our services to more people; simple as that. We have worked successfully in partnership with the social housing sector, and would love to do more of this, so if anyone out there is looking for a partner in care, give us a shout!”


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