Since 2011, Glasgow Night Shelter has provided a hot meal and a safe place to sleep for destitute asylum seekers. We’ve moved around a variety of premises since we first started but in every one, the guests shared one communal sleeping room and were required to leave by 9am in the morning. At the end of 2019 we started working on a radical pilot project intended to afford our guests the dignity they deserve – a private bedroom, access to bathing and laundry facilities, a place they can go at any time in the day. We had started working with partners across Scotland in order to get this new project up and running when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK.
In February 2020 we started drafting Covid-19 specific risk-assessments – in every scenario it was clear that in our current set-up we could not ensure the safety of our guests, or staff, or volunteers. By early March we had suspended all non-essential volunteering and began looking in earnest for alternative accommodation. The emergency Winter Night Shelter, due to keep operating until the end of the month closed its doors early due to infection and rumours started spreading that the government was going to impose a nationwide lockdown. Our guests did not have the capacity to ‘stay at home’, nor any ability to self-isolate. We started working closely with Simon Community Scotland who, amongst other services, have a street team to identify and assist those who are sleeping rough – people who would also be unable to self-isolate if sick, or to stay at home if a lockdown was announced.
On March 21st, after some phenomenal partnership working, we moved all of our guests into a city centre hotel. For many of our guests, chronically lost in the asylum system, it was the first time in years they had had access to their own bedroom. On March 23rd lockdown was announced.
In the space of a day, our service had transformed from offering emergency overnight accommodation, and a hot meal served in a communal dining room, to a 24 hour service with three individually portioned meals a day. Our staff rose to this challenge, many working twice as many shifts as usual. Our volunteers, now unable to spend time in close contact with the guests, offered to start driving around Glasgow picking up and delivering donations of toiletries, clothes and hot food. Social Bite began delivering lunch packs to our guests and when the kitchen in the hotel closed, we were overwhelmed by offers of help from faith groups and small businesses who started sourcing individual food containers and made culturally appropriate hot dinners for our guests.
As Ramadan approached, and it seemed likely we would be in the hotel for the foreseeable future, the local Muslim community rallied to provide our guests with prayer mats, copies of the Quran and many kilos of iftar dates.
At the time of writing, we have been in the hotel for three months. We have welcomed new members of our staff team and are still relying on hot food donations from our fantastic community of supporters. If you would like to support the work of Glasgow Night Shelter you can visit our donate page or click the PayPal link below to make a financial donation.
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If you would like to donate food or other items, please send an email to email@example.com with a contact number/ address for contactless pick up.