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Thanks to One and All.

 

Our winter jacket collection last weekend was a resounding success and we took in enough to last us at least a year.

 

As we have mentioned already this was organised by Michelle, who passed away last month, so making sure the collection went well was very important to us all.

 

The jackets will be distributed to rough-sleepers and others in need and we would like to relay our thanks to each and everyone of you who helped us help others.

 

 

In fact we took in so much we didn’t have the storage space for it all and we gave a big bundle of clothing to our pal Jason at Safestore who is going to ration it our to Women’s Aid among others.

 

Last weekend was also the Celtic sleepout. We were given the used sleeping bags and mats afterwards and want to thank those involved for their help.

 

The Green Brigade also made a donation of £500 to our group after their recent food drive. The lads have been kind to us over the years so, again, we want to extend our appreciation.

Our buddies at St Roch’s Juniors also provided a collection point for the collection and we were given a huge amount from the guys at the Candy.

 

We really were taken aback by your generosity and want you all to know we could not operate without such kindness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How We Roll

 

Ahead of our winter jacket collection this weekend we thought we would take the chance to give you all a brief run down on how we operate.

 

As you probably know we visit the soup kitchens at Cadogan Street and look for rough sleepers and other vulnerable people who need help with clothing, sleeping bags and toiletries.

 

Winter jackets and trainers are the staple items we rely on and hand out from our van in troves most weeks to our friends on the streets. Due to the cost of both we hold appeals and ask the public to donate old or new items.

 

We also hand out a lot of sleeping bags and get these donated after the charitable sleep outs that have become popular. Underwear, gloves, hats, jeans, jogging bottoms, hooded tops and toiletries we buy in new.

 

With some of the items we buy in like underwear and toiletries it is obviously necessary to do so but with the clothing items listed above we do it to avoid being overwhelmed.

 

Donations of used clothing are becoming problematic within charitable circles in Glasgow. So much has been donated that a few groups have had to take to renting out storage space to hold it.

 

Some of it is useful but a lot of it is junk that people simply wanted out of their homes. More to the point it is the abundance of it and for the amount of homeless people in Glasgow the donations of used clothing have far exceeded the need.

 

On the streets we genuinely cannot give it away and try to not take donations of used clothing anymore so that is why we buy the items we sometimes need like jeans and hooded tops.

 

We are constantly approached on social media and that is testament to the public’s charitable spirit amidst the austerity of recent years.

 

A familiar request is the offer to come aboard and volunteer. Whilst we are extremely grateful for the approaches to come aboard, we are a very small team and have plenty people lined up should we ever need them.

 

We are very grateful to all our donors, like young Amy Don pictured below, and they help us to operate independently. Other groups who have charitable status and receive the funding that brings from grants may feel hamstrung by having to keep the authorities onside, but we don’t have that problem and operate how we see fit only.

 

 

For instance, you will never read the Simon Community or the City Mission continually highlight the 47 people who died on our streets last year in fear of embarrassing the authorities who fund them.

 

Nor would you ever see us shun a homeless person because the have fallen afoul of the council’s rulebook.

 

Unlike them we don’t get salaries and do our thing purely on a voluntary basis. Our volunteers are with us purely because of their collective spirit.

 

 

A lot of the bigger groups with charitable status/big funding approach us asking them to supply them with sleeping bags and the like and whilst we sometimes help, we are also getting wiser and asking what they are doing with their own funds.

 

We’ve no desire to be part of the homeless industry which sees millions of pounds wasted in Glasgow and Scotland every year on hairbrained projects, perpetual research, exorbitant salaries and conferences and junkets.

 

As always stated, we are just a small group bringing relief to the homeless, but we also take a lot of pride in exposing those in authority who seem incapable of finding solutions.

 

Whilst the carnage and misery continue The Invisibles are constantly evolving. In our early days we operated almost entirely by supplying other groups, but we learned that running around after others was not getting anyone anywhere. Our recently fallen Volunteer McFarlane then had the vision to take the group from that to the street group we are today, operating out of Cadogan Street every Wednesday night.

 

Today we continue moving forward – one of our anonymous donors we mentioned on these pages recently has given us a significant sum, and after a lot of deliberation we have decided upon a new project that will be announced next week all going well.

 

We will continue at Cadogan Street, finding rough sleepers and other vulnerable folk and bringing a little relief to their lives, but we also hope to fill another void with our new project too.

 

We would also like to thank MTG Legal Services for their recent donation.

 

Tune in next week to read about our new venture.

 

 

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Our Man on the Ground.

One of our longest standing volunteers knows the homeless industry inside out having worked alongside the policy makers and people on the ground. He is bringing his unique perspective to these pages with the occasional blog. Here is his first instalment on the announcement by a new homeless alliance that they intend to end homelessness: 

 

 

 

Spare us your End Homelessness sound-bite and help those in need now! 

 

After noting, with great personal confusion, our governments at both local and national level trumpeting their big conversation on homelessness I let out a knowing sigh. The Alliance I believe they’re calling this latest cobbled together approach to “ending homelessness”. I challenge any person or agency to advise me as to how they will Implement this ridiculous statement?

 

Can they, in a timely manner, for example, help someone fleeing a violent relationship and provide a tenancy for her and the kids? What about young person leaving care or even prison?

 

A sleeping bag from our crisis agency is not the answer. In fact there is no perfect answer, no one size saves all package. Sound bites and bluster are not required here. Realistic, honest and practicable suggestions from everyone are.

 

See we’ve been here before. I’ve shaken the hands of the grey suited politricksians as they smugly pontificated on the solutions they dreamt up how they could ‘fix it’. Call me cynical but I didn’t buy it.

 

The Homelessness (Scotland) Act 2003 became law back then with a typical political get out clause. This Act stated clearly and without any misunderstanding that all ‘unintentionally’ homeless people were entitled to settled accommodation by 2012. But is it clear? I thought at the time it was a fudge and I still think the same. Why? Who defines the intention?

 

I’ve heard it all before going back decades here, and here and once believed it when I was in amongst it all. Now I am wiser.

 

Law to ‘end’ homelessness indeed. What did this mean? Can law end the personal suffering when ‘ homeless’ people are living under curfew in private B&Bs? Can law end the fear or terror of living in private hostels?

 

What about those dumped into a Temporary Furnished Flat without support. The law in it’s broad strokes provides a roof in these cases, not much else. If as a society we’re going to have a conversation about homelessness then let’s bin the BS and start with meaningful goals.

 

I was born on the banks of the Clyde, a son of Mother Glasgow. We have rarely sat back and accepted Injustice. Stand up people, we must look after each other.

 

Why create false impressions in such an emotive area of real suffering?

How many people with lived homelessness were involved in The Alliance and it’s conversations?

And what on Earth happened to us?

 

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The Invisibles keep on truckin.

 

 

As we gathered down at Cadogan Street last week after Volunteer McFarlane’s funeral a few days beforehand there was something of a hangover in the air.

 

Saying farewell to Michelle took its toll on us all but we will carry on and are determined follow through with her plans.

 

The announcement by a group of business people led by James Mortimer that they intend to drive beggars and homeless people out of Glasgow City Centre had riled Michelle and she wanted it pointed out that they are only a small representation of the business community within Glasgow.

 

Plenty others are supportive of the homeless within our city and a few donate to The Invisibles and keep us going throughout the year.

 

The Den’s Social Club are one such group. They’re a collective of businessmen and community leaders in and around Glasgow who have been kindly donating to The Invisibles in recent years.

 

Last week they donated another £500 that we used at Bonanza Wholesale Fashions to buy a few more boxes of clothing stock to distribute to our friends on the streets.

 

 

We also have a new anonymous benefactor who has pledged a significant sum every year.

 

This man seeks no publicity and simply wants to help tackle homelessness within his city.

 

Just like the anonymous donors who pay for our website, storage facilities and stock. These are a better representation of Glaswegian business persons.

 

These new funds will allow us to grow as a group and perhaps take on new projects. We have a group meeting soon and will be formulating new plans to try and make a difference to our pals on the streets so keep an eye out on these pages for details.

 

In the meantime we would also like to take this chance to thank everyone who has shared our appeal for winter jackets online.

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Farewell Michelle

 

After a busy night helping our friends on the street tonight The Invisibles took a moment to remember Michelle ahead of her funeral on Friday.

 

Joined by her son and husband and friends Mel and Sheila from Help 4 The Homeless we lit candles and pyro to honour the woman who made our group what it is today.

 

We will do our level best to continue on her good work.

 

Goodbye, Michelle.

 

 

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RIP Volunteer McFarlane

 

 

We were devastated this morning to learn of the sad passing of one of our volunteers, Michelle McFarlane.

 

Michelle was a wonderful human being who championed for the downtrodden and was the biggest driving force behind our group.

 

She is a massive loss and we won’t be able to replace her.

 

We would like to take this opportunity to offer our condolences to the family.

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Wednesday Nights on Cadogan Street

Wednesday Nights on Cadogan Street

 

 

 

 

One of our friends appearing last week at Cadogan Street after a long absence served us with a timely reminder that nobody will be ending homelessness anytime soon.

 

The lady in question was back on the street after recently being evicted from her new Temporary Furnished Flat (TFF). However, this was not the first time, and won’t be the last, she has broken the rules set in place by the council and been sent back to the bottom of the homeless ladder.

 

She left us on Wednesday with some new clothes and a reminder that she would have to go to Shelter Scotland or Govan Law Centre the next day. Apparently, that day she had been rejected by the council for emergency accommodation because she had broken the rules of the tenancy on her TFF.

 

We told her she would now have to go to one of the above charities and get a lawyer’s letter reminding the council of their legal obligations and they would then have her in a hostel or B&B by the Thursday afternoon.

 

Some won’t go for help from a charity and drift toward rough-sleeping but to our knowledge our friend has never sunk to those depths and had a bed organised for the Wednesday night at least.

 

Thereafter she will have to live in a hostel for months or years before they give her a chance at a TFF again. This is the cycle many in the homeless community have been living in for twenty years or more.

 

Sadly, some people just cannot seem to live in normal tenancies and have become almost institutionally chained to hostels and B&Bs. Our friend is just one of a fairly large crowd of people with complex needs who go around using all the services in Glasgow and show little signs of ever being able to sustain a tenancy.

 

Then there are the rough-sleepers. Many of them have addictions so severe that living on the streets is the only way for them to survive. They beg for enough money to fix and then repeat the process all day and every day with brief interludes sleeping under a bridge or in a doorway at night.

 

Is Scotland ready to address that? Legalise drugs and end the criminality and have premises for addicts to administer their drugs?

 

Or, what do we do with the generation of people with complex needs who can’t live outwith the homeless system – hope they just die?

 

We don’t have the answers but just go along on Wednesdays to Cadogan Street and try to help who we can.

 

On Wednesday past we gave clothing to at least ten folks. No rough-sleepers were around that evening but there had been a spate of them in the weeks beforehand, and more will appear in the coming weeks as winter approaches and they get colder.

 

We see a variety of people every Wednesday. Most are going through the homeless system and living in hostels or TFFs but others are simply down on their luck. Our aim is to help everyone but rough-sleepers in particular are our focus.

 

The winter months are approaching, and this is when we are needed most. Sleeping bags and winter jackets are our most essential items and will be handed out in spades.

 

We’ll be there throughout the winter and bringing you updates on here. Like we were last year and will be next year and the year after that. Ending homelessness now sounds great but forgets those people on the streets today who aren’t ready for it to end.

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Thank you, Hoidy and co!

The Invisibles were grateful to receive a recent donation of £1000 from the Twitter user, @Hoidy.

 

Hoidy and a group of pals sold some pin badges in honour of a Celtic player and the profits raised all went to charity.

 

As well as our donation they also donated to the venerable Clinton Pringle Project.

 

We caught up with Hoidy to relay our thanks and he said: “I’ve been aware of The Invisibles for a while now and have always admired the work they do.

 

“I think it’s important that people look out for others in their community and having lived in the East End of Glasgow my whole life I’ve seen some of the damage homelessness can cause.

 

“I didn’t expect to raise half the money that we eventually raised and I think as well as the cash donation I would hope we helped to raise awareness too.”

 

Their donation will be used to buy essential items for the rough-sleeping community in Glasgow.

 

With the winter approaching and our service becoming more crucial to the rough-sleeping community we will be more active on the website and posting weekly updates – so be sure to keep an eye out.

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Stock Update

Image result for glasgow

 

Due to the generosity of the Glaswegian public as winter begins in earnest, we must confirm that our storage unit is currently filled to capacity and therefore we cannot presently accept any further donations of clothing. As the weeks and months pass, these stocks will inevitably dissipate and we will once again be able to accept any donations you may have, but as this is a fluid situation, we cannot provide a set date as to when this will be the case.

Notably, the above news does not concern those donations which have already been arranged. However, for those of you still interested in donating clothing to help the members of Glasgow’s homeless community, we would encourage you to contact other organisations (such as Salt & Light and the Glasgow Drug Crisis Centre) as they may be able to accept your donations even if we cannot at this time.

Thank you again for your wonderful support and we wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

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Council Cuts and Homelessness

I first wrote on The Invisibles’ site some eighteen months ago. However, Councils have been hammered with more crippling cuts since then.

Regardless of where your politics lie, you should be well aware that every Council Cut not only affects the livelihood of the Council workers, but the most vulnerable members of our society.

Councils don’t just collect and empty bins once a week. They are social workers and the guardians for children in care; they are carers who provide assistance to the elderly and infirm in their own homes; they are the occupational therapists who will provide the adaptations to allow a disabled person to live independently and with dignity in their own home; they are the homeless services who many turn to when they find themselves without a home – need I go on?

Scotland sees the headlines about Council cuts but for some unfathomable reason, a minority can’t seem to accept the cuts to the above services are the same thing (at least, I pray its a minority).

Councils are a political pawn and I regularly see Council Workers terms and conditions of employment under scrutiny as some try to justify their political allegiance isn’t to blame – really Scotland, is this where we’re at? Its Westminster, its the Scottish Government, its the ‘whatever party’ run Council or is it also unfathomable that its all three?

Of course, we’d all do a better job. Goes without saying really.

Councils also provide funding to Scotland’s ‘Third Sector’ and there is a real fear how much funding they will lose as Councils struggle.  The voluntary sector provides invaluable support to many homeless people and families, grants from Councils and Central Government are essential to their service.

Homelessness – As I wrote in my previous piece, Council homeless Housing Officers/Caseworkers are fully aware of homeless legislation in Scotland and of the statutory duty to provide temporary accommodation, Housing Support and permanent housing – should you be assessed as unintentionally homeless with a local connection. With every cut to our service, the struggle to deliver this statutory service becomes more challenging. I might face a challenging job, but this is nowhere near the struggle anyone without a roof over their head faces.

The legislation being in place is great but there also has to be proper funding, without the funding, the legislation is useless.

I read a piece in the National Newspaper recently about homelessness in Glasgow and the statutory duty, the headline was ‘failing to meet legal obligations to the homeless’ – the article is, of course, 100% correct to highlight this and I hope it does raise awareness.

The article however offers no solutions and merely repeats homeless legislation from Scotland’s Homelessness Code of Guidance. There’s a few parts also incorrect – Councils do help people with no leave to remain in the Country and will always assist families with Children who have no leave to remain, there’s a legal duty under the Children’s Act.

The article also offered no insight into the plight of someone sleeping rough or the pressures on the homeless service itself. The National isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last newspaper to do this.

There were 10,467 households in temporary accommodation as at 31 December 2015 – an increase of 249 households (+2%) compared with one year earlier. Over a quarter (2,769 households) were households with children – an increase of 278 households (+11%). On 31 December 2015, 4,876 children were in temporary accommodation – an increase of 543 children (+13%) – this is information on the Scottish Government’s own website.

Households in temporary accommodation are up, funding is down.

Councils do not cause homelessness but have the statutory duty to resolve it. With this is mind and the cuts to the service, we look to prevention.

As there isn’t enough social or affordable housing, many look to private rent. Housing is something we have full control over in Holyrood yet Scottish parties are voting against rent controls and regulation in the Private Sector – they are doing this in full knowledge that a lot of homelessness comes from the Private Sector – why?

Those with more complex needs such as addictions (and Methadone use) are, in my opinion, particularly vulnerable. Dr Neil McKeganey from the Centre of Drug Misuse Research was correct when he said its ‘a black hole into which people are literally disappearing’. Are we aware of how much this costs the NHS in Scotland every year? It is millions upon millions. Drug addiction is a life of hell that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Someone with an addiction deserves better than an outdated multi-million pound programme that doesn’t work and sees them disappear down a ‘black hole’. Do not be so complacent as to think addictions only happen to other people or are born out of other issues, as I can assure you this isn’t always the case. I work with many who call it ‘green death’. This is yet another area Holyrood and Scotland has control over.

Addictions, poor mental health, relationship breakdown, job losses, debts and unscrupulous private landlords all lead to homelessness. These are issues most of us can identify with and are areas we need to be asking more questions about.

Homeless and vulnerable people have been hit with a double whammy in recent times, with welfare reform and cuts to the Public Services they rely on most. If a political party isn’t offering a solution to this, then they are very much part of the problem.  Politicians put themselves forward to run this country on a manifesto of promises and solutions, not excuses. Don’t waste the time of Public Service workers and those who rely on Public Services most by using excuses after the election.

I was in Rutherglen Main Street recently and a political party was proudly handing out mini-windmills and flags to kids, not policies on resolving homelessless and all the issues that cause homelessness.

I love the guys at The Invisibles, its all too easy to walk past someone sleeping on the street and post your outrage on Social Media. Use this outrage in a much more proactive and practical way than gaining followers and retweets. We all lead busy lives and I totally understand it isn’t always possible to give up time for the homeless, but there are well paid politicians in every area of Scotland who willingly put themselves forward to represent everyone in Scotland, it will take two minutes to ask them questions. Thank you.