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College provides HOPE for the Glasgow Winter Night Shelter

01 Nov 2019

The HOPE Foundation supports the principles of volunteerism and philanthropy shown by the Fellows and Members of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow since its formation in 1599. As part of a feature written for the latest edition of our membership magazine “voice”, you can read about a grant to the Glasgow City Mission’s Glasgow Winter Night Shelter. A copy of this is below and College Members can read the full magazine through our website.

The HOPE Foundation supports the principles of volunteerism and philanthropy shown by the Fellows and Members of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow since its formation in 1599. As part of a feature written for the latest edition of our membership magazine “voice”, you can read about a grant to the Glasgow City Mission’s Glasgow Winter Night Shelter. A copy of this is below and College Members can read the full magazine through our website.

The HOPE Foundation aims to make a positive difference to the health of people living in challenging circumstances where access to quality healthcare is, for whatever reason, limited. It does this through fundraising, grant-making and disseminating learning from our funded projects to our membership

In 2018 the foundation made a grant of £10,000 to the Glasgow City Mission to help support the Glasgow Winter Night Shelter. This financial support has helped to improve the health and wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable men and women in Glasgow. 

About the night shelter

The Glasgow Night Shelter is a partnership initiative led by Glasgow City Mission, which operates from the Lodging House Mission’s building on East Campbell Street in Glasgow’s east end. Other partners in the shelter include Simon Community Scotland, Police Scotland and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

The night shelter runs from December to March and provides a warm and welcoming place to sleep for those who would otherwise have been sleeping rough during the coldest winter months. Each year it saves lives and helps people move into suitable accommodation.

Overview of this year’s service

Last winter saw more people stay at the night shelter than ever before, with a total of 691 people staying over the four months – an increase of 16 per cent from the previous winter. In total these guests stayed for a total of 2,452 bed nights, which is a 36 per cent reduction on last year.

This significant reduction in bed nights is thanks to providing a joined up approach to support the needs of the shelter’s guests. For example, Glasgow City Council’s homelessness casework team came to the night shelter five evenings a week. The team were then able to check the status of a homeless application, whether any accommodation is immediately available, or when a flat is due to be ready. This work helped us to support 510 people to move onto supported accommodation or another positive destination, and helped us to reduce the number of nights that guests needed to stay in the shelter. Last winter 70 per cent of guests stayed for three nights or fewer.

Staff and volunteers also work hard to care for the guests to ensure they feel valued and listened to. Graeme, one of our regular volunteers, recalls that one night a guest came in who was extremely dirty and in a bad way. Graeme and a staff member cleaned him up and got him a change of clothes. He wasn’t even able to stand, so they got a chair for him. The guest started to cry, because it was so unusual for him to receive such kindness.

Another staff member, Elyse, tells a story of a lady who had stayed at the night shelter for the last two winters. Last year, Elyse needed to ask her to leave, as she had been causing problems and was being disruptive. However, she was worried about the woman being on the streets as she was very vulnerable, and called the police. When this lady returned to the shelter last winter year the lady thanked Elyse for saving her life. The police had found her that night and taken her to supported accommodation where she received the help she needed.    

Improving health outcomes

Staff and regular volunteers receive extensive training to help improve the health of guests at the shelter. This training includes how to spot the signs of overdose, CPR, and how to administer naloxone.

In addition, staff check on the guests every half hour through the night. If they are concerned about the health of any guests, for example if they seem to have taken a lot of drugs before entering the night shelter, they assign them a mattress at the front of the night shelter where they are checked on every 10 minutes.

Lorna, Night Shelter Manager, said:

“Gordon came to us in a bad way and we suspected that he had taken drugs before entering the night shelter. I said to him, ‘I want you to keep breathing through the night. I want you to be alive in the morning’. We checked him every 10 minutes through the night. He was sick in his sleep and we put him into the recovery position so he didn’t choke. If he had been sleeping in the street, he could have choked and died.”

Nurses from Hunter Street Homeless Services attended the night shelter in the mornings. Lorna said:

“The nurses from Hunter Street are great at chatting to the guests – and it helps them to feel looked after.”

The nurses are able to use their experience and expertise to identify the specific health needs of the guests and encourage them to attend the clinic at Hunter Street in Glasgow for specialist support. For many of the Shelter’s guests looking after their health is low down their priority lists, and they can often be reluctant to seek help. To help overcome this challenge, volunteers from Simon Community Scotland attend the night shelter in the mornings and can walk with guests to Hunter Street, which is just round the corner.

The care which guests receive at the night shelter from staff, volunteers and the nurses helps them to see that they are valued and worth caring for. This, and the fact that Simon Community staff are on hand to walk with them to Hunter Streets, helps them to receive vital health interventions they otherwise would be missing out on. Thanks to staying at the night shelter and the intervention of the nurses, guests have received help with, for example, infected wounds, infected wounds, abscesses, symptoms of withdrawal, and mental health assessments. 

Running the night shelter

Along with the HOPE Foundation, the service received support from the Rangers Charity Foundation, the Urban Potential Fund and the Baird Trust.

The night shelter cost £97,748 to run last winter, was an increase from previous years. This increase was due to employing an additional staff member. This new member of staff was someone who had themselves experienced homelessness, and so was able to relate to the guests, and encourage them that life could get better. They had also recovered from addictions, and so were well placed to understand some of the addiction-related health needs of the guests and could quickly spot signs of overdose.

In addition, the shelter was awarded £15,000 from the Rayne Foundation to start two new pieces of work around mapping rough sleeping sites out with Glasgow City Centre, and providing mental health support to guests. The mental health support took the form of increasing the hours of our Pastoral Support Coordinator to enable her to attend the night shelter once a week, and securing the services of a local counselling service called Healing for the Heart.

Healing for the Heart’s trained counsellors attended the night shelter 19 times in February and March, for two hours a night each time. The counsellors chatted with the guests over tea and toast before the guests settled down. The staff described this support as, ‘providing psychological CPR.’ They were able to spend time with guests, helping them untangle their thoughts so they felt more in control of their situations and able to make good decisions. For many of our night shelter guests have fallen through the cracks and have missed out on mental health provision, so had the night shelter not been there, they would not have had the opportunity to receive this assistance.

Thank you

Thanks to funding from the HOPE Foundation and others which contributed to the running costs of the night shelter, lives have been saved, and some of the most vulnerable and chaotic homeless men and women in Glasgow have had the opportunity to have both their physical and mental health needs met. This vital care would not have been possible without the night shelter.

On behalf of the Glasgow City Mission and the Night Shelter, we’d like to thank our Fellows, Members and donors for their support for the HOPE Foundation, which has made such a positive difference to the lives of their night shelter guests.


Categories: Engagement, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Wellbeing

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