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The homeless

A Scottish household becomes homeless every 18 minutes. Homelessness isn’t just sleeping on the streets either: it covers people forced to stay in hostels, temporary accommodation or sofa-surfing. Across Scotland people are living in housing that is damp, cold, overcrowded, insecure and unsafe. 

In 2022-23 alone, there were 39,006 applications for homelessness assistance – an increase of 3,247 (9%) compared with 2021-22, and higher than pre-pandemic levels (37,053 in 2019-20). There have been similar increases in households assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness and rough sleeping figures. 

Borderline (now part of ScotsCare)

Homeless Scots in London are vulnerable, isolated and far from home. Many Scots come to London and prosper. However, far too often they find themselves facing difficulties much greater than they left behind. According to statistics, more than 1 in 20 of the UK homeless population in London is Scottish. Having nowhere to live, suffering from complex issues, encountering repeated failure, and being stigmatised by the general population can swiftly force people into isolation and devaluing themselves.

ScotsCare, who in a previous guise were one of the Royal Caledonian Charities Trust's earliest beneficiaries, provide a personalised support package that strives to help homeless Scots in London meaningfully address their support needs and the root causes of their homelessness. The charity offers support in securing appropriate accommodation, counselling, financial grants and budgeting support, and can refer clients to specialist services where appropriate. 


St Catharine's Convent Homeless Project

In the heart of Edinburgh, in an old convent surrounded by hospitals, hotels and university buildings, Sister Aelred Timmins runs the St Catharine’s Convent Homeless Project. Supporting over 200 homeless and disadvantaged people from Edinburgh and the surrounding area every day, each morning is different and each day comes with its own unique challenges.

However, day-in, day-out, St Catharine’s is open between 8am and 8pm and is very much designed as a home for those who use it: with morning and evening meals, toilet and shower facilities, and most importantly a warm welcome and sense of belonging. This is particularly critical at a time of economic and social insecurity for so many.

St Catharine’s is also a centre for support groups for vulnerable young women caught up in the sex industry, for example, and for recovery and rehoming: for those moving into accommodation, the centre provides cooking appliances and necessities such as kettles, pots and pans. It also has a supply of food for each day – fresh vegetables and potatoes, tinned food, and meat for cooking – along with tea, coffee and biscuits. These items can be taken home to be cooked, allowing service users to feel a dignity in their own place that most of us would take for granted.

The Royal Caledonian Charities Trust has supported the Sisters' work with the homeless for quite some time now, and have been consistently impressed by their dedication, resourcefulness and empathy. Shown below is our former Chairman, Mrs Felicia Morris, visiting the soup kitchen in 2016.

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