Cold, hard facts about mis­ery of home­less­ness

Blairgowrie Advertiser - - NEWS -

On Satur­day night I did some­thing I never imag­ined I would do. I slept out­side on what was a bit­terly cold De­cem­ber night.

I took part, along with thou­sands of oth­ers, in the Sleep in the Park, or­gan­ised by the so­cial en­ter­prise So­cial Bite to raise aware­ness and funds for the work they un­der­take to tackle home­less­ness. I was joined by my cabi­net col­league, the com­mu­ni­ties sec­re­tary An­gela Con­stance, and the hous­ing min­is­ter Kevin Ste­wart.

It was a night of sharp con­trasts. On the Satur­day evening there was a con­cert in Princes Street Gar­dens in Ed­in­burgh with great mu­si­cal per­for­mances by Dea­con Blue, Liam Gal­lagher and one of my favourite artists, Amy MacDon­ald. When the con­cert fin­ished all 8000 peo­ple went to their sleep­ing bags dot­ted across the gar­dens and tried to sleep.

I went into my sleep­ing bag at 12.30am, saw 1.30am and 3.10am on my watch and got up at 5.15am. It was aw­ful. There was no rain or snow but it was bit­terly cold, very damp and my kit was frozen by the time I got up.

It was, of course, an ut­terly un­real ex­pe­ri­ence for me. I was do­ing this in the se­cu­rity of an or­gan­ised event.

A per­son who is home­less takes their chances on the streets, where they could be ex­posed to any amount of abuse, ha­rass­ment or vi­o­lence.

I was also able to pack up my stuff, go home, have a shower and warm up.

What I cannot get out of my head since Sun­day morn­ing is how tough it must be for peo­ple who are home­less to warm up or dry out if they start the day that cold and wet and have no means of get­ting over it.

De­spite the harsh­ness of the con­di­tions, the event was in­spir­ing. Peo­ple from all walks of life in the pri­vate, pub­lic and third sec­tors, from our churches, school pupils from Perthshire, all came to­gether to take part in this ef­fort to raise money and aware­ness.

The event has raised over £3 mil­lion and aware­ness is a great deal higher than it was. I think that ef­fort says some­thing of the sol­i­dar­ity and em­pa­thy that ex­ists in Scot­land. We should cel­e­brate that.

The ef­fort to tackle home­less­ness is a pri­or­ity for the Scot­tish Govern­ment and we wel­come the in­volve­ment of third sec­tor or­gan­i­sa­tions like So­cial Bite in the com­bined ef­fort to tackle the is­sue.

The Scot­tish Govern­ment has put in place a £50 mil­lion End­ing Home­less­ness To­gether fund which is de­signed to give im­pe­tus to our work.

We have put in place more sup­port for home­less peo­ple this win­ter as an im­me­di­ate step in tack­ling the is­sue and the part­ner­ship with or­gan­i­sa­tions like So­cial Bite helps enor­mously to ad­vance our work.

In the con­cert part of the event four peo­ple who had ex­pe­ri­enced home­less­ness spoke. They ex­plained that tack­ling home­less­ness is not just about find­ing a house but about ob­tain­ing per­sonal sup­port to tackle men­tal health, ad­dic­tion, trauma, em­ploy­ment and fam­ily ex­pe­ri­ences.

It is vi­tal that all of these chal­lenges are part of our work.

Satur­day was an ex­pe­ri­ence I hope never to have to re­peat. And I want to make sure we do all that we can to pre­vent it for my fel­low cit­i­zens. Blairie reader Jean Oud­ney sent us this fan­tas­tic photo of the Old Cross in Rat­tray dat­ing from the 1950s.

To­day the road runs through this house in the mid­dle and in the photo you can see the old road go­ing past the Ge­orge Ho­tel - now the Old Cross - and the church on the far right.

The photo was taken by Jean’s fa­ther Fred Oud­ney, who was a keen am­a­teur pho­tog­ra­pher and has many amaz­ing pho­tos of Blair and lo­cal peo­ple from the past.

Why not send us your snaps and have your im­age ap­pear as our Reader’s Pic­ture of the Week?

You can email pho­to­graphs to news@ blair­gowriead­ver­ or pop in to our of­fice at 58 Wa­ter­gate, Perth, PH1 5TF.

When your are send­ing your im­ages in­clude your name, ad­dress and con­tact de­tails and a lit­tle piece of in­for­ma­tion about your pho­to­graph.

Wrapped up Work­ers from the Bal­housie care group who took part in Sleep in the Park in Ed­in­burgh on Satur­day

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