UK’s first cycle outreach team tends to the homeless

Simon community cycle team crop

Mobile project will help charity reach rough sleepers people outwith the city centre

Graham Martin's photo

20th September 2017 by Graham Martin 1 Comment

Rough sleepers who have chosen to avoid Glasgow city centre are to be supported by a charity whose volunteers will be able to reach them by bicycle.

The Street Cycles team, run by Simon Community Scotland, are being kitted out with bikes to allow them to help more people, more often and further out from the charity’s city centre base.

The innovative outreach service – part of the charity’s street team – will be staffed exclusively by highly-trained volunteers, who will help the charity rise to the challenge of dealing with the estimated 1,000 people who sleep rough in Glasgow every year.

Funded by The National Lottery, the Street Cycles project is appealing for people to get involved who want a unique and rewarding volunteering challenge.

The programme will involve extensive training, which – among other things – will involve lifesaving first aid, including the administration of the opiate reversal drug Naloxone.

Their specialised training will also include becoming a certified Cycling Scotland Cycle Patroller and reaching Velotech Bronze level, a cycling industry-recognised bike maintenance qualification.

It is believed that this is the UK’s first pedal-powered homeless outreach service: this development is part of Simon Community Scotland’s commitment to provide innovative solutions for the complex issues around homelessness, whilst meeting the changing demands on the street.

Hugh Hill, director of services at Simon Community Scotland, said: “We are encountering growing numbers of homeless people in the south and west of the city, most of them women concerned about their safety in the city centre.

“Our ability to cover the more outlying parts of the city is inhibited by staff resources, as well as geography. We are bringing in volunteers to increase the scope of our cover and using bikes to reach a wider number of people, increase the visibility of the work we do, and distribute supplies.”

Street Cycles teams will use touring bikes loaded up with basics such as food, clothing, first aid, needle exchange kits and sleeping bags.

They will also be trained in providing psychological counselling and emotional support, plus in giving practical advice on how people might access wider services in the city.

The project is being launched with the help of Kevin Stewart MSP, minister for housing at the Scottish Government.

He said: “Tackling and preventing homelessness is a key priority for the Scottish Government and I’m delighted to launch this innovative outreach cycle scheme, that will enable Simon Community’s volunteers to help vulnerable people who are sleeping rough in areas outside the city centre.”

The initial funding of £10,000 from the Big Lottery Innovation Fund, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, will support the setup of the project. In time this will mean a team of 30 volunteers, working in pairs and providing the backbone to a seven days-per-week service.

Maureen McGinn, Big Lottery Fund Scotland chair, said: “This National Lottery funding will help Simon Community Scotland be able to reach people who are sleeping rough in areas outside the city centre more swiftly and provide them with food, clothing and any advice they need.

“This is life-changing money, making a difference where, and when, it is needed most.”

People who think they have what it takes to rise to this unique volunteering opportunity are encouraged to visit here to register their interest.

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