A new “village” for homeless people is set to open in Edinburgh by Christmas of this year (2017), and will provide vital housing and support for people affected by homelessness in Scotland.
The innovative project is run by the sandwich chain ‘Social Bite’, who also employ homeless people, and aims to build two ten-bedroom homes to house up to twenty people from a homeless background.
Occupants will receive expert support throughout their twelve month stay, after which time they will be encouraged to seek permanent accommodation and take steps to move into employment.
Among those expected to benefit from the project include those currently living in nearby temporary accommodation, homeless shelters, hostels and B&Bs.
Co-founder of Social Bite, Josh Littlejohn, told The National: “We’re so pleased that the Social Bite village will be up and running this year, and we’re edging closer and closer to creating what we believe can be an effective alternative to a broken temporary accommodation system for people struggling with homelessness”.
Josh added: “We’re about to break ground on the site and the first house will be displayed in St Andrews Square throughout August for anyone to come and see.
“The end result will be an inclusive, compassionate community that will provide a vital support network to people who are ready to be helped back into society.”
The project has attracted support from a number of famous faces, including former Olympian Chris Hoy, who together helped to raise £500,000 by sleeping rough during December 2016.
Josh now hopes others will be inspired by his lead and come up with new ways to tackle homelessness across the UK.
“The village is only a small part of a much bigger answer required to end homelessness”, he said, “but it could be a blueprint for how social enterprise, charity, council and corporates work together on a solution that makes a difference”.
A report from the homeless charity Crisis and Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) think tank, published in March, warned that welfare cuts and a shortage in affordable homes is fueling a rise in homelessness and rough sleeping.
Around 58,000 people were accepted as being homeless by councils in England in 2015/16 – an increase of 18,000 since 2009/10.
There had also been a doubling in the number of homeless people housed in temporary accommodation, up from 52% from 2009/10 to June 2016. However, more recent data has now put this number at a shocking 61%.
Commenting on the report from Crisis and JRF, Brian Robson, policy and research manager at JRF said: “A dearth of affordable, secure rented housing is driving up homelessness in the UK.
“Theresa May’s Government has been clear that rented housing has a vital part to play in solving the housing crisis but, without more action, a lack of housing will mean that increasing numbers are left at risk of homelessness.
“The Government has set out welcome plans to build new homes, but these will not be within reach of families who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.
“We need action to make sure that new homes are available to people at all income levels, and that there is a safety net in place for those who are at risk of homelessness. The Government is considering action to increase the amount of support available, but this will only work if there is enough funding and enough homes to cope with demand.
“In the immediate term, lifting the freeze on working age benefits would help to stop people’s incomes falling even further behind.”