Last month, I got the opportunity to volunteer for an evening at the Bethany Christian Trust’s Care Shelter.
The Care Shelter service provides rough sleepers with somewhere safe and warm to sleep for the night where they can access support and get a hot meal. It is run by a small staff and relies on 500 volunteers from churches across the region who operate on a rota basis to provide a venue for the service.
When I visited the shelter, it was being hosted by St Cuthbert’s Parish Church on Lothian Road with volunteers from Palmerston Place Church.
First off there was a short briefing to outline the plan for the night ahead.
Then at around 7pm volunteers arrived to begin preparing the meal for that evening. All of the food was cooked from scratch and prepared on site, ready to be dished up by the church team.
While this was happening, the charity’s minibus headed out to pick up people who wanted to use the shelter. Arriving back at the shelter, people were able to get a warm meal before settling in for the night.
Although I didn’t stay the whole night, I was told that the team also brings food for breakfast before the service users leave in the morning.
With Bethany’s support vulnerable people are encouraged to tackle underlying issues that surround homelessness such as poverty, poor welfare, addictions, unemployment, lack of education and social exclusion.
Staff are on hand to offer emotional and practical support to prepare families and individuals for independent living which allows people to move forward in their lives and to reach their full potential.
The experience of one young man gave a real insight into the reality of life for someone experiencing homelessness. He had fallen during the day and badly injured his knee. He wasn’t registered with a GP practice so his only option for help to make sure he didn’t suffer long term damage to his knee was to turn up the next morning at the ERI’s A&E department. The only catch was he had to walk four miles to get there.
The help and support that the Bethany Christian Trust gives to homeless people around Edinburgh is superb and could not be achieved without the support of the churches who host the service and the volunteers who make it work.
If you are interested in finding out more about the work of the Trust or want to volunteer, you can visit their website here.