In Jane Street, two converted warehouses are currently responsible for supporting hundreds of people impacted from covid-19: from frontline workers separated from families, to elderly people and families across central and south east Scotland suffering the injustice of food poverty.
Before covid19, the Cyrenians’ depot, operated in partnership with FareShare, was delivering around 50 tonnes of food a month. Across the road, their Community Cook School provided classes to those at-risk of, or with experience of, homelessness, and hosted a series of popular supper clubs to help support the charity.
The impact of the pandemic has placed all communities under increasing pressure, and as a result demand for services has soared. Since March, the depot has quadrupled its output, delivering over 419 tonnes of food to charities and community groups across Central and South East Scotland - approximately 1 million meals worth of food.
The Community Cook School, having been converted into a production kitchen, is cooking roughly 5000 healthy, freezer-ready meals a week, making use of FareShare produce, as well as generous donations from the food industry across the city.
It's not only the staff at the charity making this remarkable work happen - what makes all this possible is the incredible generosity of volunteers who have pitched in and shared their skills to better support our communities. From Scottish chef John and others currently on furlough, to local 100-year-old baker Margaret; from long-term volunteer Priscila, to first-year international student Julian - the charity’s quick response has been greatly aided by a wealth of local talent and compassion.
Priscila Silva at the Community Cook School
Priscila volunteers 1-2 days a week at the cook school - a place she has gotten to know well over the past year, using her love of cooking and in-depth knowledge of nutrition to ‘give back to the community’ in whatever way she could:
“I started volunteering last year at the supper clubs at the cook school, and when those stopped because of lockdown I immediately wanted to see if there was a way I could help out. You can really see the difference Cyrenians makes. I absolutely love cooking and being in the kitchen, and by helping out this way, I can see the real impact that just one individual can make”
Julian Mashingaidze at the FareShare depot
Julian is a first-year international student from Zimbabwe at the University of Edinburgh, and was very happy to get involved:
“I started in late March when the pandemic hit - it’s been a great way to give something back, as well as a reason to get out of my room! I’ve gotten some other students involved too, some of whom were struggling with feeling contained all day, and they told me that ‘this is the best thing you could have ever done’ to help. Getting outside and helping out is doing us a huge amount of good - the team at the depot are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and it’s great to be part of it”
Ewan Aitken, CEO, said: “The response from across Scotland to this crisis has been both staggering and humbling. Community groups and voluntary organisations have played a key role in Scotland’s response to this crisis, working together and making use of long-standing local connections. We have only achieved so much because of those communities and community connections. None of this would have been possible without the compassion and incredible generosity of spirit we’ve seen - I would like to extend a thank you from myself and from everyone at Cyrenians to those communities in all their diversity who have come together in such a difficult period to make sure that people get what they need”
There are those also who have been unable to leave their home, but determined to make a difference while keeping busy. Local 100-year old volunteer Margaret has been baking a variety of loaves to include in the deliveries, with support from her local community to get ingredients:
"Baking is helping me keep busy right now, I'm not very mobile so can't get out and about, but people have been dropping me off flour and sugar which is so lovely. I can't sew, read or knit right now as I need to see the opticians but they're all shut. I've mainly been baking from memory - I've not had any complaints so far so they must be okay!"
Demand for these services has far outstripped anything the charity has ever encountered before, and is likely to continue long-after this pandemic. There is a very high risk of more people being driven into poverty and placed at risk of homelessness by the impact of covid19. More people are faced with restricted incomes, dependents to support, finding it more difficult to pay for essentials like food and housing.
This crisis has shone a light on already-present systemic issues in society. Voluntary groups and charities have played a vital role in the emergency response, and will continue to do so in delivering support while developing long-term solutions to build back better.
For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Marketing and Communications Officer
Notes to editors:
- For over 50 years, Cyrenians has been tackling the causes and consequences of homelessness.
- For regular updates on changes to affected services, please visit https://cyrenians.scot/coronavirus-and-service-provision/
- From operating four residential communities, to working with those who have travelled through the justice system; from our outreach teams to our employability courses; from our mediation and support work to our social enterprises; Cyrenians offers support to those who need it most.
- Our Vision is an inclusive society in which we all have the opportunities to live valued and fulfilled lives, and we work to make that vision a reality.
- Our Mission is to support people excluded from family, home, work or community on their life journey.
- To find out more information about Cyrenians visit cyrenians.scot
 Homeless Network Scotland, Homelessness and Covid19: an overview of equality considerations arising from Coronavirus (Covid19) and its impact on homelessness in Scotland [PDF]
 Edinburgh Poverty Commision, Poverty and Coronavirus in Edinburgh: Interim Report, [link]
 Cyrenians is part of the ‘Scotland Collective on Covid-19’ - 19 organisations campaigning to get #EveryoneHome - find out more.