Village for the homeless opens in Edinburgh
Social Bite is working with Cyrenians to support residents and move them on to ‘mainstream’ accommodation in future.
A new village has opened to provide stable accommodation to homeless people as part of campaign to eradicate the issue in Scotland.
Social Bite Village launched on Thursday in Granton, Edinburgh to provide a place to live and support for up to 20 people.
The project, believed to be the first of its kind in the UK, is made up of 10 two-bed huts with a central hub where residents can socialise and admire views over the Firth of Forth.
Josh Littlejohn, Social Bite co-founder, said: “It feels amazing to see it come to life like this, it’s been a lot of hard work from the build team.
“To see the whole thing come together, it’s really humbling.
“It’s a really beautiful, safe environment so hopefully it’s going help lots of people.”
The transportable NestHouses were designed by Jonathan Avery of Tiny House Scotland, comprising of a kitchen living area, bathroom, two bedrooms and shrubbery outside.
They are built on a 1.5-acre site of vacant council land which has been given to Social Bite on a “meanwhile use” basis, meaning it can be used until the land needs to be developed.
Six residents will move in to the village in June, but it is hoped this will build up to around 20 over the coming months.
No one with ongoing addiction issues or with “dual diagnosis” will be allowed to take part in the project.
Tenancies are expected to last between a year and 18 months, which mirrors the typical duration homeless people spend living in accommodation such as hostels or bed and breakfasts.
Mr Littlejohn added: “The idea is it’s a transitional environment, so every 12 months or so we hope to welcome 20 new people through the village and ultimately go on to mainstream tenancies.
“If they’re in a B&B or a hostel they’re completely unsupported, completely marginalised and sent of a negative trajectory.
“We want to try and take people in for the same amount of time, but put them on a very positive trajectory.”
Rent is largely expected to be paid through housing benefit, but once a stable income is established this will be used to pay for lodgings.
Social Bite is working with charity Cyrenians to help people move into the new village and provide onsite support for those living there.
Connections have also been built with a local college to provide residents with education, while a number of employers have pledged job opportunities.
Sean Tilbury stays at Cyrenians Farm and Community in Kirknewton, West Lothian, which provides work and homes to vulnerable young people.
The 18-year-old, who suffers from depression, started living there after taking advice from his social worker.
Speaking at the village opening, he said: “Just having a community, a sense of worth, having a neighbour to speak to – I know people from the farm community would love that.”
It's imperative that there's no complacency and that we don't take our foot off the gas Angela Constance MSP
Ewan Aitken, chief executive of Cyrenians, added: “We’ll be supporting the people, creating the context so they learn about supporting each other and then looking outwards to all the other opportunities that they can have.”
Social Bite began as a sandwich shop in 2012 employing and feeding homeless people.
It has attracted attention from stars such as George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio as well as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities Angela Constance described the village as “special” and praised those behind the work
She added: “It’s imperative that there’s no complacency and that we don’t take our foot off the gas.”