THE Homeless hostel in Saltcoats town centre officially closed on Wednesday, July 31 following significant funding cuts.

The homeless service, run by the Simon Community Scotland, is a supported accommodation for people experiencing homelessness, and is now closed due to a ‘Housing First’ policy which has resulted in significant cuts to funding within the sector.

The charity acquired the Saltcoats service in August of 2015. At capacity, the service accommodates 23 people experiencing homelessness between the ages of 16-70 who are in crisis and have an urgent need for accommodation. Many of the people within the service will also be helped with issues such as mental illness, addiction, trauma and family breakdown.

In the Three Towns area, the service has proven to be invaluable in helping people affected by homelessness to find stability and personal development. Simon Community Scotland encourages a relationship-based approach in all of their supported accommodation and in doing so has found great success in helping those they support. Staff are trained to collaboratively work with the individuals they support and help them to identify the best way forward with matters ranging from addiction and abuse to job applications and family relationships.

Lorraine McGrath, CEO of Simon Community Scotland, said: "We are immensely proud of our staff and all of the people they have supported at Green Street for their commitment and perseverance during the closure process. All of us at Simon Community Scotland were very disappointed that the need for cost savings has resulted in the loss of the service in Saltcoats. I want to recognise and celebrate the success of so many people in moving away from crisis to find some stability, both during their stay at Green Street and thereafter; the skill and compassion of the team in how they worked with every single person; and the many local partners who supported our work. We take inspiration from successes and learning from the challenges of delivering the service and we wish only continued great things for our staff and service users in the future as they move on from the service."

In the last four years, since the service began, Simon Community Scotland’s Saltcoats service has helped over 1,000 people experiencing homelessness. Those within the service have progressed onto temporary accommodation, back to their families, or even into a house of their own. Some people find their way back into the service after experiencing further difficulties.

Speaking of the closure, Stewart Nixon, Head of Services and Localities at Simon Community Scotland, and manager of the Saltcoats service said:

"It is with a heavy heart that I have to comment on the service closing. I feel for our service users and they are our priority as we move forward. I am incredibly proud of every member of my staff group for their dedication, commitment, and compassion. The sheer amount of lives they have saved cannot go without mentioning and if it weren't for their intervention, drug deaths in the area would have undoubtedly been 20-30 people higher every year. I cannot commend the staff or the service users enough."

The staff at the Saltcoats service also shared a few words on the closure. One staff member said:

"I have always found the Saltcoats service a great place to work. Every day we are faced with different challenges and as a team we always worked through these. Personally, I feel Saltcoats is a much-needed service in North Ayrshire due to the support we offer to the most vulnerable of clients who pass through our doors. I have loved every minute of my time working here and feel very sad at the need to close."

SNP Councillor Jean McClung, in whose ward the facility is located, said: "I was pleased to be invited to the recent Open Day held at the Simon Community service in Green Street, the event being a celebration of the sterling work done over the years by the committed staff at the service. "Since the first time I visited the service and met Head of Service, Stewart Nixon, I have been greatly impressed by his, and his staff’s empathy towards, and commitment to improving the lives of, the service users there.

"I was quite distressed to discover at the Open Day that only a handful of residents knew where they would be living in three weeks time. My sincere hope is that, with the support of North Ayrshire Council, all the present residents of Green Street will find suitable accommodation, and will continue to receive the professional support they may require in order to move on with their lives."