GREEN CAMPAIGNER CALLS FOR RETHINK OF HOMELESS CENTRE CLOSURE

A Green campaigner is calling for a rethink of the decision to withdraw funding from a vital homelessness service in Edinburgh city centre.

Edinburgh City Council is to withdraw funding from the Ark Trust which currently runs a vital breakfast service for street homeless people in the heart of the Old Town.

Gavin Corbett, who is the Green council candidate in Edinburgh City Centre and also Policy Manager for the charity Shelter, believes that councillors are unaware of how central the Ark was to the development of homelessness policy in Scotland.  He said:

“Back in 1994 I wrote the report which made the case for a “Rough Sleepers Initiative� in Scotland.  [1] This was eventually taken up by the new Labour government in 1997 and ran until 2003, funding new services to the tune of £45 million.  Over that period the initiative transformed the help given to people who were literally on the streets.  Up to that point homelessness policy was mainly focused on families; this was the first time that the needs of people sleeping rough were looked at seriously.

“The Rough Sleepers Initiative in turn led to the radical reshaping of homelessness policy in Scotland, which is now generally-regarded as the most progressive in Europe.   

“It was a visit to the Ark in 1994 to help with breakfasts that convinced me that we really needed to do something better for people who were being badly let down by public services.  I can only assume that councillors are unaware of how important the Ark was in influencing homelessness policy; otherwise they would not have come to this hasty decision.

Mr Corbett also believes that the withdrawal of funding is linked to the controversial Caltongate development.  He added:

“The Ark Trust premises in New Street are part of a listed building which is due to be mostly-demolished to make way for a 5 star hotel as part of the so-called Caltongate Masterplan.  The Ark had been promised relocation to a new building in Calton Road, but with part of the service under threat it is now not clear what will happen.

“At the very least the timing of the funding cut makes it look very convenient.�

NOTES TO EDITORS

[1] Gavin Corbett’s report “Insight Outside: the case for a rough sleepers initiative in Scotland� was published by Shelter in December 1994.

CONTACT: Gavin Corbett, 07847 504011

ENDS