Roddy Smith – CEO Blog

Last Thursday at the Edinburgh Chamber Awards, the Cyrenians Navigator project, which Essential Edinburgh support, was highly commended. Although we didn’t win the award for ‘Inspiring Partnership’, this accolade went to The Grassmarket Community Project and Laing O’Rourke, the role businesses can play in supporting the excellent work being carried out by the third sector was doubly recognised.

Throughout the consultation process ahead of our renewal ballot last year, our businesses expressed concern about homelessness and begging in the city centre, realising that improving security for all in our area means working to help those most vulnerable.

The funding provided by Essential Edinburgh enables Cyrenians to employ Nick Harrold, a Homeless Navigator. Nick is part of the Cyrenians Outreach team in the city centre. Their job is to get to know rough sleepers and through the relationships they create, see if there is a way they can support those individuals out of their tough reality.

Each individual’s story is different. However, most are doing the same thing; begging. Shelter Scotland and the Community Safety Partnership have just published a new report on begging in Edinburgh. Within this report it is clear that homelessness and begging are not mutually exclusive; although not all those who beg are homeless, most who are rough sleeping are also begging. The main drivers for begging, as one would expect, were economic. People used the money for food, heating, accommodation and while some said they needed to beg to feed addiction they also reported resorting to begging for children’s clothing and Christmas presents.

This research is the first step towards forming a strategy but it cannot be done in isolation. Only by working together can local government, law enforcement, expert third sector partners and the local business community make a significant difference. Shelter’s research enables the Community Safety Partnership to have a baseline with which to work from and will help with understanding the causes and influence the support that is needed.

There is no quick-fix; such complex issues require a considered and sensitive strategy for real and lasting change. We have a long way to go but the remarkable work of Nick and his colleagues at Cyrenians does mean there will be support throughout their journey out of a street based lifestyle.

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