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Cold Hard Truth

Today we publish a piece from a long standing friend and supporter of our group. Heed these words as they come from a knowing source.

The closest feeling to having nowhere to live is that of a broken heart. It is a feeling of abandonment, of rejection and loneliness. When you are homeless you feel rejected by all, not just by another.

It should come as no surprise that homeless people experience some of the highest rates of loneliness and isolation in the Scottish population. Being homeless means more than just being without a home, it is linked to the breakdown of personal and social relationships and being put at a distance from social networks and connections. It can make some withdraw further from others, reinforcing isolation and seeking support harder. For others the use of alcohol or drugs is a means of blocking out isolation.

Rough sleeping is increasing and crisis levels, that is very obvious in the City centres of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Glasgow City Council seems to be fighting fire with a very small water pistol and is under increasing pressure from Homeless Charities such as Shelter to fulfil its statutory duty of providing accommodation.

So why isn’t it meeting the statutory duty.. Can you really cut over £400m in Council Services and expect a positive outcome ?

As a way of addressing the crisis, much has been made of Housing First approach to resolve homelessness. The idea has cost the Government in Finland €240m and has seen long term homelessness cut by approx 45%

Housing First in Scotland is currently being rolled out across 5 areas – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Aberdeen and Dundee in what is known as The Pathfinder Project and was launched in August 2018.

Housing First is for people whose homelessness is experienced alongside other severe and multiple complex issues – addiction, trauma, abuse, mental ill health and experience of local authority care and prison. It is estimated this affects around 5,700 people in Scotland, across a single year.

Since 2010 austerity has taken its toll on public services with harsh cuts to the NHS and Mental Health Services, Addiction Services, Social Work (including Criminal Justice) and Homeless Services. Councils around Scotland are already preparing themselves for further ‘efficiency savings’

As Housing First requires strong links to all of the above services, just how serious is Scotland about Housing First and resolving homelessness ?

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Update from Our Team On The Ground

How many this winter?

How many this year?

Many of us who’ve bought the flag, wore the t-shirt and walked the walk of Scotland’s failed policies on homelessness are now beyond persuasion. Personally I’m embarrassed to have taken a wage. Glasgow City Council and our National Government for decades, have wasted time, money and energy. We must be honest though. This is not a party political issue for our group. We are past wasting our energy. Let us be clear in our message. This is a national emergency bigger than careerist political colours.

So I’ll respectfully start with our First Minister. Hmmm, where to go? I’ll give it a punt.
First Minister can you agree that too many souls will die on our streets this winter? Will you agree this is a national shame? With the greatest of respect First Minister do you believe it is your direct responsibility to take control of this issue in our country? We sincerely hope you do. What about you Prime Minister? Mr Corbyn? All of you! We ask the same questions.

It’s election time. ‘er yer hollow promises, two fur a vote, three fur your soul’

Elections are great for statistical analysis aren’t they? Real forensic stuff for some. We can do stats too. Shake your boot’s stats. We can do historical analysis of previous law’s crayoned into wherever devolved and settled matters are written. See last year’s blog. We can do all of that. It doesn’t take a law degree to understand broken or ineffective policies. Quite literally life or death policies in this case.

Back to our current local and national leaders now, the stakeholders, the photo opportunity people, you know, the decision makers.

We ask them. How many died on Glasgow’s street’s or in temporary accommodation supported or not in 2018? Difficult but essential question in this debate. How many???
Truth is that we don’t know. To be honest we have great difficulty finding accurate figures, maybe we could touch on who can a bit later on. So sadly our trust in sources providing real answers to this essential question is limited. We do hope, always, to change our position in the future.

Why you might ask? Why no trust? Fair question, hand’s up. But. There are additional considerations, upsetting considerations and we believe, standing beside those in our community, this issue must be high on the crisis list.

You ready? I bet you’re not.
Let’s talk about street Valium.
Let’s talk about Etizolam.
No, with our deepest respect to families devastated, in the context of this response? We can suggest this only. 45 souls did not die in Glasgow registered as homeless or rough sleeping in 2018. We respectfully assert the number may be alarmingly higher.

Yes many additional factors contribute, we get that. It doesn’t stop us asking the question.

How many homeless or at risk of homelessness people in Temporary Furnished Flats, Supported Accommodation, public or private council funded hostels or BnB’s (with or without statuary or 3rd sector support) died in Glasgow?
Let’s be horribly honest. If you don’t have the capacity to understand this as a major contributing factor, not an individual’s issue and you’re employed or are considered a stakeholder providing guidance to colleagues or our community? You should be ashamed of your employer. Ask them. Be you CAT (community addiction team) Criminal Justice support team’s, CMHT’s (we could add another paragraph of team’s) and every housing provider. MP, MSP, Councilor. Ask them how many? It wasn’t 45.

As an evolving group over 5+ years we have quietly gone about our business. Supporting those we could learning day by day, week by week, month by month and so on.
So Our desire to evolve continues. The touch screen is mightier than the Cooncil, sorry, sword. We meant sword. Honest.

Invisibles. The Invisibles. Seetheinvisibles.co.uk.


Not now, we appear to be very visible suddenly. The beginning was fodder for our news media and every Christmas is the same. Happy new puppyness. Merry here’s 3 minutes and 400 words of our commitment to make a difference. Once a year, when suddenly we all grow a conscience. Homelessness IS NOT, just for Christmas.

Spare the souls needing our support. Spare our colleagues from many groups the same and spare us.

Do you really want a story? A damn horror story?

Look closely at homelessness provision over the past 25+ year’s in Glasgow.

Thatcher would be proud.

It really should be asked. Have they only gone and stealthy, bit by bit, privatised another social issue?

How much for private hostel or BnB and how many over past decade (we’re being reasonable on last bit) were ‘processed in this time period? An FOI request? Another committee? An Alliance? A question in Parliament? A blog? 1000 Tweets? Do we have to spray paint this on the shiney side of the Hydro for you?

Here’s another freebie.

Who provides the furnishings in a Temporary Furnished Flat, and why is the rent in a TFF so high that it’s a barrier to work opportunities. A Cooncil cell if you will. Another open goal of a story. Wide open.


So now, more than any media outlets ever could, we will speak brutal truth. Occasionally.

However.

Our group refuses to be investigative shpeel hawkers for any media.

Ask us a reasonable question and we’ll give honest answers. Fancy coming out and seeing what’s happening right now? No problem.

Ask us to do your job by writing columns or articles? Not a chance, go do your job. Be journalist’s again. Find the story, stand it up, then print the thing. How hard is it?

We do respectfully, recognise individual reporter’s who’ve taken time to come see for themselves. Thanks for that. You dilute our cynicism and continue to do so. Really. This DIY attitude from let’s say, less weathered writers and columnist’s certainly is refreshingly progressive these days. Keep at it. We need your help.

But back to our update, aye that.

Just in from ‘Our Team On The Ground’

Here’s our update this winter….

Nothing has changed. More people will needlessly die as the decision makers and interest from media scuttle off to wherever is next on the photo opportunity bandwagon.

Remember to smile for the camera.

Happy Christmas

The Invisibles

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Come watch our boys in the Refuweegee Cup Final this Sunday!

Not only do we have our own football team but they play this Sunday in a cup final.

Glasgow Wednesday Football Club were created by one our volunteer’s son to promote our group and help to raise more awareness about homelessness in Glasgow.

They have just recently secured a solid mid-table finish in the league and this Sunday will be closing out their season against Kelvin Thistle in the inaugural Refuweegee Cup Final.

Kick-off is 12 noon on Sunday 2nd June at New Tinto Park and entry is free.

The teams have met twice in the league this season, with a 2-2 draw on Thistle’s patch in November and a tight 3-2 Thistle win earlier this spring on Wednesday’s ground so it promises to be a good game of football.

The guys help us with donations and appeals and are a great bunch so we would urge anyone who can to go along and cheer them on to victory.

We hear the boy McFarlane is a player and seeing him in action will be worth the journey alone …

See you all Sunday!

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The Michelle McFarlane Award

After almost a year of deliberation The Invisibles are very pleased to announce the launch of The Michelle McFarlane Award.

Working alongside our new partners, Emmaus Glasgow and Turning Point Scotland, we will award grants to people recovering from homelessness in Glasgow.

Creating a new service and making a tangible difference to people’s lives was of upmost importance in the process so we looked long and hard to find somewhere we could make an impact on people’s lives.

During our research it was soon apparent that a lot of charity exists to help people living in crisis but for those trying to move on there is not really a lot there. Austerity has battered the welfare state to the point that literally no funding exists from the DWP for people moving out of homeless accommodation and into their own home.

They can apply to their local authority for essential items, but people are being given mattresses with no bed frame, or carpets for only one room, and left pretty much in squalor. It is difficult for most of us to empathise with the gravity of someone starting again from nothing and recovering even the most basic day-to-day items.

Once we decided this was an area, we wanted to look into we realised that actually finding genuine candidates might be difficult. It was decided to look toward some of the bigger charities who deal with people moving on with their lives and found two partners to work with initially.

Turning Point Scotland deal with thousands of people every year who live in temporary furnished flats (TFFs). These are people living in a scatter flat who have previously been on the streets, homeless hostels and are now waiting on their permanent accommodation.

We decided we must approach Turning Point because nobody else has the access or knowledge of people moving into their own accommodation. They gladly agreed to work alongside us to identify people who would be most in need of our help to provide much needed items for people’s new homes, like white goods or furniture.

Emmaus Glasgow are friends of ours who work down at Cadogan Street. They run their own unique unit in the north of Glasgow with people recovering from homelessness working there to earn their keep.

Unlike Turning Point, they will be using the awards differently for things like driving lessons or work-related training courses to try and give their users that extra little chance of succeeding when they are ready to move on from the facility.

As well as Turning Point and Emmaus we will consider award to individuals we know from the street and will hopefully be looking for other partners as the project evolves.

The genesis of the idea was with our best volunteer, Michelle McFarlane, who sadly passed away in October of last year and the scheme will be named in her honour. We hope it to be a project worthy of her name.

Michelle took in the original donation that is funding the first year of our project and then set-up early meetings to discuss ideas.

We had further meetings late last year and only reached a consensus early this year but are happy this is a valuable cause. Creating this legacy for Michelle is something that means a lot to each and every one of us, so we hope to watch it grow.

Refusing to sit back and an insistence on keeping on moving was what made Michelle different from most. It was she who drove us onto the streets five years back when there were very few groups out there in Glasgow and she instigated this new project too.

We are only just recovering from her death and as a group we floundered for a few months. In a family dynamic when someone passes, they are not replaced, and this is how it has gone with Michelle’s passing in our group. There is a void that will never be filled but, like a family, we are back getting on with it and all chipping in to carry on her work.

Billy Reid is another respected volunteer in our group and knew Michelle better than most. He said: “We are delighted to be getting this off the ground and think it has the potential to grow because the need badly exists.

“Michelle was keen to get a new service operating that would help the lives of the homeless in Glasgow and was at the first few meetings earlier last year spearheading the early ideas.

“We have already stepped up our outreach operation this year and are doing much more street work but that is different and after a lot of discussion we feel like we have found something else that will make a real difference to folk’s lives with the Michelle McFarlance Award.”

The scheme is already up and running and we will be updating our website in the coming months to detail some of the grants bestowed.

For information on how to donate to The Invisibles visit our Twitter or Facebook.

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Reaching out to those who need us.

 

In recent weeks we have started an outreach operation and have moved onto the streets in search of rough-sleepers due to decreasing numbers at Cadogan Street.

 

Cadogan Street has been our base for a number of years now and with a few other homeless services nearby it seemed to be the best place to find rough-sleepers. However, in recent times there just haven’t been the same numbers coming along and sometimes we can wait weeks before we see a genuine rough-sleeper.

 

That is not to say those who do come down to Cadogan Street are not genuine. Everyone who comes down there looking for help is vulnerable and we understand they now rely on us and we have a duty of care to them. We will always have a presence there but if we can help more people by spending some time out on the streets looking for people then that is what we intend to do.

 

We are explicitly a group who are there to help the homeless of Glasgow and we didn’t really feel like that is what we were achieving and led by two of our volunteers, Robert and Davie, we have taken to the streets in recent weeks to find those poor souls who we know are sleeping on the cold pavement every night.

 

It has been a learning process and started with a couple of the guys just taking to the streets with a few bags of underwear and toiletries. We have been taking the van out most recently and have been surprised by just how much of our stock we have been able to hand out.

 

 

As you all can probably guess it absolute chaos out there on the streets. For all we are told Scotland is a progressive wee country there is nothing forward thinking about our polices in helping rough-sleepers.

 

In England and Wales there is a system in place for the public to phone in and inform the local services of any rough sleepers. Here we have nothing like that and in fact our man Robert was approached by the police last week on Buchanan Street and asked if they could use our phone number to give out to people phoning them to report rough-sleepers!

 

We would like to help the state with this but we don’t think a small band of volunteers giving up their time should be solely responsible for the destiny of Glasgow’s rough-sleepers. Sure, we can offer a sleeping bag, clothing or toiletries to try and help ease their suffering but we can’t offer accommodation or the professional after-care and support these people need.

 

Our man Robert was standing outside this tent on Buchanan Street when the police officer approached him.

 

The outreach work is using up a lot of our stock and helping us reach more people. It will augment other plans we have for expanding our operation in the near future.

 

In the past year or so we are lucky to have received some fairly large donations and have held a numbers of meeting discussing possible projects.

 

We’ve something in mind and are almost at the stage of finalising the idea. When we have signed off on it with prospective partners we will post the news on these pages!

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We thank the Celtic Foundation for carrying on the good work of Walfrid and co.

 

“A football club will be formed for the maintenance of dinner tables for the children and the unemployed.”

 

The above statement was released after a meeting at St Mary’s Church Hall in the Calton on the 6th of November 1887 during which Celtic Football Club was officially created.

 

Today, the club continues on looking after the most marginalsed citizens of Glasgow through the Celtic Foundation and we would like to thank them for another donation to our group as part of their 2018 Christmas Appeal.

 

The kind donation of £5,000 will help us to look after our friends on the streets and will also go toward new projects we are currently discussing.

 

The Invisibles would not be able to operate in the manner we do without the help the Celtic Foundation have given us over the years.

 

Previously they helped us raise funds to buy our van and last year they directed an anonymous donor our way who handed us a very significant sum of money. And, every year they also give us all the leftover sleeping bags from their Sleep Out for us to hand out on the streets.

 

Our Dermot at last year’s Sleep Out at Celtic Park, pictured with some of the guys from the Foundation. 

 

Added to that they have also liaised with us to get homeless people off the streets and up to Celtic Park to take part in training programmes and they hold a lunch at the stadium for the homeless every year.

 

From everyone in our group we would like to say a big thank you to the Celtic Foundation. They should be proud of themselves for carrying on the charitable ethos Brother Walfrid envisioned for the club all those years ago.

 

Hail Hail!

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Merry Christmas and Thanks to Everyone.

 

Before we start we would like to point out that whilst the Winter Shelter has just opened in the LHM there are still lots of rough-sleepers, like the person above, choosing not to use the facility and sleeping out on our freezing streets instead.

 

All we hear are plans and pledges to tackle homelessness but as far as we can see nothing is changing on the ground.

 

Meanwhile, The Invisibles would like to thank the kind citizens of Glasgow and beyond for all your help throughout the year.

 

To stay independent, we do not bid for government or council funding, so we rely on your help and we could not operate without it.

 

For instance, we handed out some Christmas parcels to our friends on the street in the week past and we were able to do so only thanks to generous donations from three different sources.

 

To that end we would like to thank: Karen and Kate, pictured below with their donation at our store, from the Alison Lea Medical Centre in East Kilbride, Claire and Debbie from Babcock Rail and another lady Lesley dropped by some items too.

 

The Green Brigade are another group who we owe our gratitude too. After their recent food drive, we were lucky enough to receive another generous cash donation from the guys. This is testament to their social fibre and they are no ordinary crowd of football supporters.

 

 

One of our men, Robert, works in the city-centre and as well as his voluntary duties he is always active and helping our friends on the street as he goes to and from work. His colleagues at the Glasgow Dental Centre also help too and we’d like to extend our thanks to them all for their help with our winter jacket and reverse calendar appeals. In particular Heather, Caryn-Ann, Katrina, Christine, Leeaane, Alan, Aileen, Dora, Irene and Trish have all been a big help and we can only hope they continue to do good things next year.

 

 

Finally, the boys at Mill United Colts 2005s decided to help the homeless this Christmas and donated some items to us to distribute on the street. Thanks lads!

 

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Peak Homelessness at Sleep Out in the Park.

The homeless industry gets its coffers filled by donations from the public. 

 

This weekend past was peak homelessness as the annual Sleep Out in the Park event took place in four cities across Scotland.

 

Last year we were told that they raised £4 million to go towards tackling, or ending, homelessness. This year at least the the same will be raised again and that can be added to the lump sum of £10 million Nicola Sturgeon promised every year for the next five years

 

But what are they doing to tackle homelessness? Building homes? Or reopening the council owned hostels they closed?

 

Not as far as we can see. Social Bite, who run the Sleep Outs, are building homeless villages and funding yet more research into homelessness.

 

Social Bite are new and they are raising a lot of awareness about the issue but the problem is they are doing nothing radical and are working alongside the same people who got us in this mess in the first place.

 

It seems straight forward to most people – to tackle homelessness then you must build homes to end the housing crisis and thereafter have proper facilities for those rough-sleepers with complex addiction and mental health issues.

 

What we don’t really need is more research, like this piece funded by Social Bite about ill suited temporary accommodation.

 

We agree that temporary flats are damaging. But it should also be pointed out that the use of temporary furnished flats  (TFFs) came from the ‘end homelessness’ policy makers and academics that decided upon using them in the first place.

 

It was they who decided to end the old system and stop using council owned homeless hostels and replace them with the private B&Bs and TFFs that remain today.

 

Now admittedly the hostels were dens of iniquity where some people became institutionalised but rather than close them down, they should have been reinvested in by improving the services, rather than shutting them down.

 

The present system of admitting people with massive complex issues into private B&Bs or hostels where there is no support whatsoever is one of the reasons why we are seeing so many people on the streets.

 

After a short spell in the B&B they are moved into a TFF. These are usually almost always literal miles away from the area they became homeless. Rent is sky high because the council have to rent them from private associations and then furnish them so users cannot go out and work.

 

Leaving them to a rather miserable existence until the council or a housing association decide to give them their own accommodation.

 

Many with complex needs prefer to tough it out on the streets than go through the above.

 

 

B&Bs are TFFs also both come at a massive cost to the housing benefit bill and must far outweigh what the local authorities used to pay to run their own facilities.

 

Yet these same policy makers and academics who decided this system of private B&BS and TFFs are telling us today that is in fact not the way to end homelessness and have come up with a new project call Housing First, which social bite are backing. 

 

We hope Housing First does indeed work, but a cynic would suggest it is just the latest doomed effort from those in authority. The same people who have made an industry out of homelessness where an extra £14 million was raised last year, on top of the tens of millions already being spent, and there is no discernible difference on our streets.

 

That is not to say no good comes from Sleep Outs. Our own group have benefited massively from donations from the Celtic Foundation after their annual event and our founding member, Dermot Hill, participates every year.

 

 

We just want action. One of Social Bite’s Sleep Out’s should have been enough. The thought of  multimillionaires like Bob Geldolf coming up here and lecturing us about poverty every year should give those with power the incentive they need to start doing it properly!

 

Tickets for the event are advertised on Itson with live bands promoted and it has almost a festival-like vibe to it.

 

Social Bite’s Sleep Outs have been good for raising awareness but the public are well aware of the homeless problem on our streets now and have done their bit.

 

Tory austerity is causing the increasing levels of poverty seen in the country but our own politicians and local authorities still have considerable resources and are wasting them.

 

Well done to all you hardy souls who braved the elements at the weekend. We just wish those with power to change shared your spirit.

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Hands off our Homeless.

 

The murky Glasgow Action Group reared its ugly head again yesterday to demand the council “tidy the place up” and get rid of the homeless from Glasgow city-centre.

 

The group is led by the multi-millionaire James Mortimer and his wealthy cohorts including Donald McLeod, the owner of the Cathouse and Garage, and Kevin Maguire, owner of the Metropolitan. They exist solely to drive beggars and rough-sleepers off our streets and maximise the profits from their own businesses.

 

Yesterday they held an emergency meeting and used their influence to have a representative from Police Scotland in attendance. Afterwards Mortimer spoke to Glasgow Live and urged the council tidy up the city centre and moaned that they don’t listen to his demands.

 

He again stated that his group have given away millions to charity in the past. That sort of cheap public relations tells you everything and should have died with Jimmy Saville.

 

The Glasgow Action Group do not represent Glasgow or her people. The reason the council are not driving the homeless out of the city centre were explained to them weeks back by the Poverty Alliance, Shelter Scotland and Glasgow Homeless Network but they don’t seem to want to listen.

 

We all want solutions to the homeless crisis but criminalising them is not the way forward.

 

The Glasgow Action Group tried to dance around the issue of criminalisation in the past and have never came out and explicitly said this is their intention but make no mistake this is what they are after. It is implicit in everything they have said on this subject since they first started talking in September.

 

Speaking to Glasgow Live yesterday Mortimer said: “The First Minister and Susan Aitken need to get together and give people the rights to sort this out. It’s got to come from them. Police hands, everybody, they’re all tied up. They don’t move them.

 

“Staff are locked in, can’t get out. They can’t get into their work because people are sleeping in doorways.

 

“We’re supposed to be Glasgow’s Style Mile. We’re kidding ourselves on.”

 

Despite their spin it is easy to see what they are all about. He wants the police to move on rough sleepers and beggars and to sweep the issue under the carpet in order for businesses to profit from this Style Mile veneer.

 

 

It was also suggested at their meeting that rough-sleepers and beggars were previously moved on during the Commonwealth Games. This chimes in with what we know and it is utterly shameful.

 

The Commonwealth Games were an exercise in gentrification and ordinary Glaswegians were ostracised, or worse as the people of Dalmarnock will attest, but to now have this Action Group crowing about how great it was that the homeless were hidden away is especially galling to read.

 

People should not be mistaken for one second that this group of individuals are motivated by anything other than their own profit margins. They already knew – and were reminded weeks back – that there already exists a working group made up of members of the police, third sector and council that seeks to solve this issue, but they chose to scupper all that good work and go alone with this cheap publicity campaign.

 

We urge all you Glaswegians not to buy into it and to continue on with your kindness to the most needy among us.

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No More Jackets!

 

Donations keep pouring in and we have had to take the decision to end our appeal and refuse anymore offers of clothing.

 

We only have so much space and there are only so any homeless people in Glasgow so we will kindly have to refuse any offers of help in the immediate future. This is becoming an increasingly bigger problem but is testament to the kindness of Glaswegians.

 

Our pals at Help 4 The Homeless already released a statement a few days ago asking for no more clothing for the time being.

 

A lot of awareness has been created around homelessness in the past five years or so and donations of clothing and offers to volunteer from the general public are constant. If it were down to the will of the people there would be nobody on our streets but sadly the policy makers don’t share the same spirit.

 

Perhaps the best way the public can help in the immediate future is to demand action politically. David Cameron told us about his Big Society of foodbanks and voluntary work that would get Britain out of austerity.

 

Now they tell us we are out of austerity but they have decimated our welfare state and public sector and are doing nothing to help us recover. People do make Glasgow but there is only so much we can do without the political will to change.

 

We’ll be back on the streets this week handing out your kind donations regardless.