Moderator calls for joint effort to end homelessness

The Rt Rev Dr Russell Barr has praised Glasgow City Mission, saying the charity is an example of good practice in serving homeless people. And he called for a “collective endeavour that involves everyone working together,” to end the problem.

Moderator with Grant Campbell
The Rt Rev Dr Russell Barr with Grant Campbell, Chief Executive of Glasgow City Mission

“I am very impressed with everything that Glasgow City Mission is doing,” the Moderator said, after visiting the charity’s City Centre Project in Glasgow on Wednesday, 7 December.

“From the high quality of their building which offers a safe and welcoming place to the valuable services they offer, Glasgow City Mission is doing crucially important work with some of Glasgow’s most vulnerable people.”

“But what has impressed me most is their aspiration to put high-quality relationships with people at the centre of their work.

“Homelessness is about poverty and the heart of poverty is poverty of relationships. All successful work with people starts with building relationships.”

We will not give up on you

Grant Campbell, Chief Executive of Glasgow City Mission, said Glasgow City Mission is putting that philosophy into action through a joint project with the Health & Social Care Partnership, Simon Community Scotland and the Marie Trust.

Together they are working with 12 people with complex and long-term difficulties that make it difficult for them to maintain housing— even with support, Mr Campbell said.

“Each of those individuals can choose whichever person they have the strongest relationship with as their caseworker.

“What we are saying is ‘We are not going to give up on you. Whether you are in prison or sleeping rough we are going to keep your flat open and we are going to keep on working with you.’

“Over the last 18 months we have seen significant shifts. If we can change outcomes for some of the most complex people in our city we will learn a lot about what services for homeless people will have to do differently in order to be successful.”

cosy corner
A cosy corner in the women's area of Glasgow City Mission's City Centre Project.

A collective endeavour

Dr Barr has been working with homeless charities across the UK, including Shelter Scotland, to draw attention to the human cost of the problem, and the fact that the figures have not changed significantly in the last 10 years.

One figure that stays with him, he says, is 17,822—the number of school age children who do not have a permanent home.

“If we are to end homelessness we will need a collective endeavour that involves everyone working together toward the same goals,” he said.

“Often the most valuable thing we can do is to bring everyone together so we are all singing from the same hymn sheet.

Mr Campbell showed the Moderator around the purpose-built five-storey City Centre Project building that includes kitchen and dining areas, a separate living room for women, a music room and even a small gym.

With about 200 volunteers, the project welcomes homeless men and women with food, showers, access to computers as well as guiding people to help with medical, dental and legal problems.

Activities on offer include, art, music, English classes and an Alpha course. And if you are there at the right time, you can even get a haircut or a manicure.

Grant Campbell chief executive officer of Glasgow City Mission
Grant Campbell, Chief Executive Officer of Glasgow City Mission, show the Moderator artwork by homeless people on the walls of the City Centre Project

People feel loved and cared for

Glasgow City Mission, which works closely with partner churches, including St Georges Tron Church of Scotland, also runs a family support project in Govan and the Glasgow Winter Night Shelter.

“An external evaluation was carried out last year and what people said was that they feel loved and cared for here,” Mr Campbell said.

“In fact that was one of the reasons they come to us, because our services are done professionally and we treat people with dignity.

“We get to know people well and we like to call people by name. We don’t like talking about service users or clients, we prefer to talk about guests.

“It is important that people who come to us talk about how we express love in what we do. That is not a tick box for us. We always look at the humanity of the individual in front of us.”

More housing please

Dr Barr and Mr Campbell also had a wide-ranging discussion on Scotland’s homelessness problem and what is needed now to reduce it.

The Moderator also explained how Fresh Start, the charity he founded, helps people settle into homes after they have been homeless.

“The fact that people are interested and that they care is what makes the difference,” he said.

“Of course you need a kettle to have that cup of tea, but what a difference it makes when someone sits down and has a cup of tea with you.”

Both men welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to building 50,000 new homes of which 75 percent will be social housing.

“We do need more suitable housing and we need to make sure we are making the best use of the housing we have”, Mr Campbell said.

“So many things have been set up to go forward. I think the next two years will be very significant for Glasgow.”

Moderator and Grant Campbell shake hands