Two local politicians recently visited the Salvation Army-run Polton Centre in Lasswade to see first hand the support available to local people affected by homelessness.
MSPs Colin Beattie (SNP)and Jeremy Balfour (Con) praised the new specialised support service aimed at breaking the cycle of homelessness in Midlothian. The centre caters for up to 17 men and women and was launched by Midlothian Council in January as a positive alternative to bed and breakfast accommodation.
Service manager Fi Grimmond says the staff endeavour to provide a safe, welcoming and empowering environment for people in the Midlothian area who are experiencing homelessness.
She said: “It was a pleasure to have the MSPs here. They were interested in what the residents had to say and gave us some advice on how we can take issues forward that relate to the Scottish Parliament.
“The support we give through the Polton Centre is designed to help people overcome homelessness and get back into independent living.”
One resident at the centre is James Glynn. He said: “I had been staying in B&Bs before coming here so I was a bit unsure what to expect. I needn’t have worried because the centre is so warm and welcoming. The location is perfect because it’s so quiet and staff have supported a few of the residents and myself in starting up a gardening project.
“And we have access to bikes that we can use to get about locally. One of the residents helps maintain them.
“The staff also offer a programme of support for people needing help with things like budgeting, cooking, and keeping healthy.
“Coming here was the best thing I could have done. I’m in a much better place now both physically and mentally.
“Once I’ve moved back into my own flat I’d love to come back here and keep the gardening project going with new residents.”
The Polton Centre is the first phase of a new Midlothian Homeless Service partnership between Midlothian Council and the Salvation Army. A second centre, Pentland House, will be opened in Penicuick later this summer to cater for up to 49 men and women.
Simon Bain, housing services manager for Midlothian Council, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Salvation Army to offer more people support in overcoming homelessness.
“In addition to the service at the Polton Centre, we will soon be launching a direct alternative to B&B accommodation at Pentland House. This will reduce the need for Midlothian Council to use B&Bs by around 50 per cent.
“We will also run an emergency homelessness service, which should enable us to provide a better service for people at all parts of their homelessness journey.”
Salvation Army support workers ensure residents have access to a range of vital services and information relating to matters such as housing, physical and mental health, and benefits. Staff and service users have been working together to develop programmes on healthy eating, budgeting, gardening and cycling. A Salvation Army chaplain is also on hand to offer people a listening ear and spiritual support.
Mr Beattie said: “It’s a great location and fantastic environment to enable people to access the necessary support to get their lives back on track. I’ve been really impressed with the partnership between the Salvation Army and Midlothian Council. I can see the service being appreciated by communities around Midlothian for years to come.”
Mr Balfour added: “I was impressed by the standard of accommodation available to people who are trying hard to make a fresh start. The staff are clearly very committed to this project and I was impressed at the level of collaboration between Midlothian Council and the Salvation Army. I wish the project every success and was delighted to be able to lodge a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating the project on its work.”