Working alongside City of Edinburgh Council and other partners, the new Lotus Community houses up to 14 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children aged 16-18 across two adjacent properties in the North of Edinburgh. These young people have been referred by the UASC (Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children) Accommodation Panel and are all engaged in education at local colleges and/ or employment.
The Lotus Community is a step towards independent living. Many of the residents have already gained basic living skills such as cooking, cleaning and budgeting. Support is required to help them gain confidence and knowledge of the local area to enable them to take further steps towards independence and integration in the local community, with a view to moving on to accommodation that better suits their needs including, in some cases, their own tenancies.
Volunteers are peer mentors to the community residents and do not substitute the work of paid staff. Volunteers and residents live within our community facility and manage the day-to-day domestic tasks and decisions within the building, which is their home. The process of being involved in decision-making empowers residents and helps to develop their confidence, skills and abilities. We endeavour to create an environment where residents and volunteers have an equal voice in the running of the house, but volunteers must note that the young people who come to live here come as a result of their need for support. Volunteer support for a resident may include:
• Supporting residents to explore new areas of Edinburgh
• Assisting with bidding for housing and moving on (training provided)
• Facilitating community activities
• Acting as a sounding board for a problem or difficult situation
• Offering mature and calm guidance
Outside staffing hours, volunteers maintain a presence in the house (worked out on a rota). Volunteers are encouraged to be alert to any conflict or other emerging problems and are expected to remind community members of the rules, if necessary, and use their influence to maintain a homely environment. They will be vigilant to any issues threatening the health and safety of those present and will call staff and/or emergency services if required. Overall, the role is less supervisory and more one of promoting a positive environment where residents feel safe and supported to gain the confidence, knowledge and skills to live independently.