Having fun, staying active, and being adventurous are all key values at Macs Adventure. But beyond providing exciting active holidays, we want to be a company that makes an impact—both in the destinations in which we travel, and in our local community. This year, our Impact team has been focusing on initiatives to give back to Glasgow, Scotland—home of Macs HQ. Along with monthly lunch-time litter picks, local trail-clearing and gardening, and a staff blood drive, we wanted to pick one group for who we could offer a long-term commitment. Simon Community Scotland tackles head on one of the largest issues our city faces—homelessness, and we’re happy to call them the Macs Charity of the Year. Through clothing drives, staff lunches, and most ambitiously, a team effort to run the upcoming Great Scottish Run, our team is excited to support Simon Community as it provides solutions and concrete support to those living on the street or in temporary housing. I had the chance to chat with Hugh Hill, Director of Services and Development, about the important work Simon Community is doing in Glasgow:
- Can you explain a little of how Simon Community moved from London in the 60’s to Glasgow? From your website it looks like it was the cause of one man who brought you north.
The Simon Community originated in London and one of the men they supported returned to Glasgow but started to relapse. Realising there was no local support his mother contacted the Simon Community in London and two of the volunteers came up to Glasgow to help. Led by Anton Wallich Clifford, they soon established the Glasgow Simon Community made up of volunteers with the express aim of helping the homeless. That was 50 years ago and today the Simon Community continue to fight the causes and effects of homelessness supporting the most vulnerable people in our society.
- How has the homelessness problem changed in Glasgow over the years and what’s your idea of the situation on our streets today?
Homelessness across Scotland has been reducing and in Glasgow rough sleeping has been in decline. There has been, however, a larger number of people in temporary accommodation, over 2,000 in the city. Temporary [housing] can sometimes be a moveable feast and people are spending far too long in uncertain and insecure accommodation. Today there is no need for anyone to sleep rough in Glasgow, however a number continue to do so in response to the significant income from begging which averages over £100 a day. The vast majority of people have accommodation but are driven to beg to meet an addiction; gambling, alcohol and most often drugs. In a number of cases this prevents people from accessing recovery services and accommodation as street life can offer significant freedom of choice, including cash, food, clothing etc. The direction of services is to obtain a secure permanent home and provide support around them, often called Housing First.
- We hear that Simon Community is into cycling as well. Can you explain a bit about this and your other upcoming initiatives?
This year we launched Europe's first ever cycling outreach service. The initiative involves volunteers travelling in twos around the city on Karakum touring bikes with fully laden panniers of essential supplies and goods. The Street Cycle team can get to people faster, further and carry more supplies. The high visibility of the bikes means people can approach the team and share concerns and see the work of the service. We are also setting up Period Friendly Points around the city. These are points where sanitary products, wipes, underwear and information is freely available to women with need. Most women on the streets don't have a change of underwear or a place to care for themselves. PFPs let them know they are welcome to use the facility and there are supplies there for them. We also launched Nightstop this year, a program to support young people in need and prevent them from rough sleeping and being vulnerable. Volunteers who have a spare room offer to take a young person for a night or more whilst we sort out their needs. Both hosts and young people are carefully assessed.
- Your team is hands-on with so many different projects in and around Glasgow but you still remain very true to what the organisation has done since it first began. What is Simon Community Scotland’s vision?
We're a charity made up of people caring for people. We are wholly focused on people at risk of or experiencing homelessness. We are not driven by income, size, influence or position. We are driven by compassion and a desire to find creative solutions that work for people, small and large.
- How can individuals get involved – whether donations or upcoming events, what initiatives do you most want us to let our readers know about?
Money is always useful but we value people’s support, donations, offer of skills and sharing the work we do. We are increasingly using Twitter and Facebook to share what we are doing and the support we receive, and we'd encourage people to follow us on both or either social media site. If you’re interested in learning more about Simon Community Scotland or how you can assist, hop over to their website for more information. And if you’re at the Great Scottish Run on 30th September, be sure to cheer on the Macs Adventure team!