Our 50th anniversary week last week saw some great events, including a dinner at the Bank of Scotland HQ on the Mound hosted by the Lord Provost, Cllr Frank Ross, the official opening of our newly refurbished FareShare depot and a sunshine filled open day at our Falkirk Walled Garden.
It was a memorable week for many reasons but three wee vignettes were the high points of the week for me:
- The man on a community payback order who told me he’d enjoyed being part of the team at the walled garden so much he’d not noticed when his payback hours were up and had just kept on turning up – and says he’s going to keep coming.
- The businesswoman who responded to what she heard at our dinner by offering the services of her business for free to our work.
- The way in which the outreach colleague I accompanied on Tuesday evening supported the people we met who were sleeping rough – bringing his own experience of sleeping rough to the relationships he was building.
These each heartened my soul; signs of hope and transformation in living reality and in many places – everything Cyrenians is about and has been for the last 50 years.
But I was also angry this week. Angry when, despite our best attempts we could not find anywhere for a young woman who was sleeping rough, a victim of domestic violence, struggling with an addiction, and had to leave her to another night on the streets. 21st century Scotland and we had to walk away because there was nowhere who could give her a bed. We left her with food, a new sleeping bag and a promise to meet in the morning, which my colleagues did and she is now in somewhere with support. But it still does not take away the harshness and unacceptability of the moment when we had to say goodbye and walk away. I know this is not a new experience for the many staff from many organisations who do amazing work reaching out to people sleeping rough every night of the week – but it doesn’t make it ok.
I am very proud of what Cyrenians have achieved in the last 50 years, the lives which have been transformed, not just of those we journey with but staff and volunteers as well. It is an honour to be part of this organisation. I am excited by the way homelessness has shot up the political agenda; the minister’s announcement for funding for rapid rehousing and Housing 1st on our anniversary date is very good news indeed and the work of the Homelessness and Rough sleepers Action Group is to be commended for being properly strategic as well as reactive. And on Monday this week, 50 years to the day Cyrenians welcomed the first resident into their first community in Broughton Place, Cyrenians’ staff will welcome the first residents into a new community, this time at the Social Bite Village which Cyrenians are operating on behalf of Social Bite.
However, Tuesday evening, walking away from that young woman, I was deeply reminded just how far we still have to go to build the inclusive society we aspire to.
5th July 2018