Simon Community Scotland marks 50 years of tackling homelessness

Simon Community Scotland's 50th Birthday ShindigHomelessness is never a reason to celebrate, but being able to put homelessness behind you most certainly can be.

Yesterday the homelessness charity, Simon Community Scotland, marked its 50th anniversary by welcoming both current and former service users to what was described as a ‘festival of community’.

Making a special guest appearance was the widow of the late founder of the Simon Community, which was launched initially in London.

And MT Gibson-Watt was joined by, among others, Eddie Lynas, who says contacting the Simon Community Scotland four years ago was among the best things he has ever done.

Eddie is now a volunteer with the charity. Four years ago, the former London publican found himself in temporary accommodation, in Lanarkshire - with no friends or family nearby.

The 60 year-old said: “I was so depressed, I felt completely cut-off. And I returned to the flat one night, to see a Simon Community Scotland card had been put through the letterbox. Out of courtesy, I phoned them, and it was one of the best things I have ever done.”

Life has turned around so much for Eddie, among his other interests is serving on the committee of a local football club.

Eddie’s story is typical of the many people involved with the Simon Community Scotland, which is less about campaigning and more about finding practical solutions, individually-tailored.

The 50th anniversary was first marked, at the beginning of the month, by saying thank you to one of the charity’s many partner organisations, The Bike Station, for running workshops that enable service users to build their own bikes.

A fortnight ago, it was launching a ‘Nightstop’ appeal, asking the people of Glasgow to make available any spare rooms they might have, to help prevent young people, in particular, making what can be a fateful decision to sleep rough for the very first time.

Helping to get people in the party mood during the day-long celebration were various musicians (Indie, Blues, Taiko drums, Soul, Indian percussion, harp and fiddle, etc), ‘crazy’ bicycles and a display of fashion-on-a-budget.

Lorraine McGrath, chief executive of Simon Community Scotland, said: “Homelessness is not just about rough sleeping, it can take lots of different forms, such as sleeping on friends’ sofas.

“We are grateful for the media’s coverage of our various activities this month, because one of the things we are trying to do is recruit more volunteers, so we can provide even more practical solutions for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

“We want to reach more people to help them understand that homelessness can happen to anyone; however, a lot of people have journeys into chronic homelessness that begin at an early age and there are lots of ways every person in Scotland can help so that people keep their homes and find ways to recover their lives and wellbeing.

“This community festival is a celebration of the people we support and who support us and to bring some fun, laughter and a sense of belonging - to make some positive memories within the bleak experience of homelessness.”

Gibson-Watt is a trustee of the original Simon Community, founded by her late husband, Anton Wallich-Clifford, in 1963.

She said: “The work we do is transformative; not just for the people who use our services, but it is transformative for the people who do the work as well.

“The underlying philosophy – that we all share – is about accepting people as they are, working with people as they are, creating opportunities that allow people the opportunity to see a bigger picture, to feel they have the capacity to change.”

(All images couretsy of Alex Woodward).

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