Simon Community Scotland to purchase permanent homes thanks to £5m investment
Simon Community Scotland, a charity that helps people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Central Scotland, has received £5 million of social investment from Social and Sustainable Capital (SASC) to purchase homes to help vulnerable people move away from homelessness.
The charity supports people in Edinburgh through its Streetwork service which delivers a range of help and support including responding to people in crisis via a 24-hour helpline, providing services at its Holyrood Hub and delivering outreach on the capital’s streets.
Using the Social and Sustainable Housing fund (SASH) investment, which was partly funded by a £1 million commitment from the University of Edinburgh, the charity will expand its services and buy properties that will become permanent homes for up to 30 tenants, helping them transition from homelessness towards employment and a new life.
Lorraine McGrath, chief executive, Simon Community Scotland, said: “Edinburgh has a major housing shortage, with a lack of affordable accommodation and social housing options. Around 500 people are currently living in temporary accommodation and each year, demand for homes exceeds the available properties.
“Our mission is to end rough sleeping and provide solutions for the many who are currently spending too long in temporary accommodation. The loan from SASC will be transformative for them. Over the next 18 months, we will purchase properties that will help people build new lives in high-quality, affordable tenancies, with access to the support they need.
“Thanks to SASC we will increase the impact for people we support. If the model is successful, we hope to be an exemplar for other charities involved in housing to access social investment too.”
The University of Edinburgh is championing the SASH fund to support organisations in Edinburgh as part of its new ‘Social and Civic Responsibility Plan’ and in keeping with its track record of responsible investment locally to benefit society. The University’s vision is to be recognised as the leading UK university for social enterprise and investments by the academic year 2023-24 and to date, it has allocated £8m to invest in socially positive activities.
Lesley McAra, assistant principal: community relations at The University of Edinburgh, added: “We know that for homeless people in our society, specific service needs are not being met and there is a serious shortfall of available housing. We hope this initiative will be a blueprint for effectively lifting people out of homelessness for the long term. Social and civic responsibility is a key focus for the University as described in our ‘Strategy 2030’, and so we are delighted to be committing £1m to SASC to support people experiencing homelessness in Scotland.”
Councillor Kate Campbell, housing, homelessness and fair work convener for City of Edinburgh Council, commented: “Streetwork are valuable partners who have been at the forefront of working with us to deliver important services, especially throughout the pandemic. Through this partnership, we have seen the number of people rough sleeping reduce significantly over the past year.
“This announcement is a fantastic step that will enable them to buy properties, providing safe, secure and settled homes for some of our most vulnerable residents. I hope this inspiring example of social investment can become a template for future initiatives.
“We’re committed to working with Streetwork, and all our partners in the third sector, to see continued investment in street-based outreach, improving temporary accommodation and support services as well as our own affordable house building programme to increase social housing across Edinburgh.”
Ben Rick, CEO, SASC, said: “For almost 55 years, Simon Community Scotland has been supporting people experiencing homelessness in Scotland. Providing stable, permanent homes is the most tangible solution they can provide. Our investment will enable them to do this, and become more financially sustainable, increase their impact and reduce the number of homeless people in the city.
“This is our fourth investment in Scotland, and we are pleased the University of Edinburgh is supporting us. We want to thank them for their investment in the SASH fund.”
This is SASC’s 9th investment from the SASH fund. SASH was co-designed with borrower charities whose work with vulnerable people was being hampered through lack of access to safe, stable, and appropriate homes.