It is 6 o’clock, on a bitterly cold winter evening. The usual bustling city centre of Glasgow is scarcely occupied. Most people are tucked away, cosy at home, and I can’t blame them. I’m bundled up in several jumpers, a heavy winter jacket, gloves, and a scarf the cold still bites to the bone.
At least later tonight, I’ll have an escape from the unforgiving cold. For the many rough sleepers in Glasgow, an escape from the elements is not an option.
Also braving the weather are a community group called Homeless Street Team, Glasgow. Easily recognized in their high-vis vests, the group has a table set up outside Marks and Spencer’s on Argyle Street, which offers hot food and drinks to the homeless community of Glasgow every Tuesday and Sunday.
Kindhearted founder, Chris Halliday, set up the group in November. He was inspired to make a difference after volunteering with other organisations, and being troubled by the high number of homeless people on the streets of Glasgow.
Chris said: “We try and do as much as we can for those in need. We have a group of about 16 core volunteers, but between 30 and 40 volunteers out helping each night. Just people from Glasgow who want to help.”
As well as having the set-up on Argyle Street, that hands out much needed food and hot drinks, Chris and his team of dedicated volunteers go above and beyond, to help not only the homeless community in Glasgow but all vulnerable people in Glasgow.
The group also provides those in need with essential items such as toiletries and warm clothes, and will also do their part to help ex-homeless people, who now have accommodation, furnish their homes with essential furniture.
Laura McSorley, who helps manage the group, juggles a full-time job, around her commitments to the group, but feels it is all worth it in order to do some good in the community.
Laura said: “We don’t just help homeless people we help a number of vulnerable people. There are people here tonight who do have homes but they’re not in a financially stable position. We make sure they are looked after as well. It’s a good feeling to make sure we can help people.”
Discussing the judgement members of the homeless community face, Laura went on to say: “A lot of homeless people do have addictions. But that is to do with what happened in the early stages of their journey, and to be honest there is a lot of stigma and judgment attached to the homeless community. But they are people at the end of the day and they have the same rights as us. We should be treating them a bit kinder.”
Laura then went on to discuss how the problems for the homeless don’t stop once they are given accommodation. “You can’t put homeless people in a home and expect them, after so long on the streets, to know how to pay bills, have a routine of three meals per day, and have a routine of showering and personal hygiene. We need more ongoing support when the guys are housed to assist with their ongoing needs.”
Laura’s sentiment on a lack of ongoing support is shared by a man who was previously homeless man. He wishes to remain unnamed and for the purpose of this article, we will call him Tom.
42-year-old Tom, who used to be homeless, has recently been given a home, but still relies on the group to provide food and other essentials. He believes that the Homeless Street Team is ‘the best thing in Glasgow’ for the homeless community.
Tom said: “Even after we are off the street and have flats, there are still problems. Coming from a chaotic lifestyle into a flat, we have no support. There’s no aftercare once you’re in a flat from the streets. There’s no one to help or mentor you.”
Tom had a difficult start in life going through the care system and then spending time in prison. He said that many homeless people also have a difficult childhood that leads to them ending up in vulnerable positions. Tom explained: “I was brought up in care. I think that has a lot to do with it. A lot of homeless people I know have been through the care system. After leaving care, they have a lot of problems and then end up in jail. There’s a lack of support for mental health. There’s little support from the government and we rely on people helping people.”
When members of the homeless community were asked directly what support they’d like to see from the government, answers ranged from opening up the city’s many empty buildings to rough sleepers, to having a drug and alcohol-free social center in the city where they could go for chat and support. One thing they all agreed on is that they would be lost without the kindness of groups such as Homeless Street Team Glasgow.
Homeless Street Team Glasgow has no government funding and rely on the kindness of the people of Glasgow, in order to provide the support they do.
Local businesses have also shown their big hearts by providing the group with help. Local Greggs, Pret A Manger and Tesco Bakery chains provide the group with excess food every Tuesday and Sunday. A local Chinese also provide the group with hot food.
In the future, the group hope to extend their Argyle Street operation to a second operation on Sauchiehall Street, and would also like to secure the funds to open a permanent base to work out of.
Homeless Street Team Glasgow rely on people like YOU to continue the great work they do. You can help out by volunteering your time, cooking hot food for the group, or even by simply making donations of needed items.
The group has a Facebook page with more information about getting involved https://www.facebook.com/groups/1898896476875045/
Photo Credit ScottNicolPhotography