I recently visited the offices of the Community Help and Advice Initiative (CHAI), an active Edinburgh-based voluntary organisation. CHAI provide a range of invaluable support and development services to local people on a City-wide basis, with the specific aim of alleviating poverty and improving the social conditions for people within the community.
CHAI – formed in 1997 – originally concentrated on meeting the social welfare needs of local residents in Wester Hailes; however, the organisation has grown and developed significantly and also operates from offices in Oxgangs and the South of Edinburgh.
The CHAI team is dedicated to providing practical help and advice to people most in need. The CHAI Advice Centre is based in Wester Hailes and they open their doors for free and confidential advice on a range of subjects; including benefits, rent arrears, debt and council tax. Outreach appointments are also available to residents of South and South-West Edinburgh upon request.
For many people these services are invaluable and is the practical assistance that people locally need to improve their lives. Many of CHAI’s clients need help at crisis point in their lives, such as the risk of homelessness, the financial impact of unemployment and health issues. CHAI provide a dedicated, user-led service for each client, working with them every step of the way to help them solve their problems and recover. I was very impressed with the enthusiasm and professionalism of the staff and I am acutely aware that the organisation is highly regarded throughout the city for their work.
CHAI also have dedicated support teams that specialise in key areas, including providing services to help people overcome substance misuse, a recycling furniture initiative for people on low incomes, tenancy support to promote independent living and working with people to help them find employment. Their Employability service is part of Edinburgh’s Joined up for Jobs initiative that provides targeted programmes to help people progress from “not job ready” to “job ready”.
Tackling poverty and promoting equality of opportunity is at the core of CHAI’s activities and the work that they do is undoubtedly of significant benefit to the community. I’m grateful to CHAI for inviting me to visit as I was able to meet with one of CHAI’s clients. I was moved by the difficult issues she is dealing with as a result of debt built up while she recovered from cancer and the raft of benefits and employment challenges she has had to face. She is determined to get her life back on track and I’m adding my support to the work done by CHAI to help her.