Every 18 minutes, a household is made homeless in Scotland. With more people sleeping on Edinburgh’s streets than anywhere else in the country, we must, as students of Edinburgh, crusade against homelessness and endeavour to ameliorate living conditions for our society’s most vulnerable.
The university now provides a course designed specifically to tackle the problem of homelessness, through both the enhancing of awareness about the issue and through the provision of means to aid those with fewer opportunities. Dr Fiona Cuthill is the driving force behind the 10-week course, positing that it facilitates engagement with “people at the frontline” to afford students the opportunity to debate and conceive new methods of improving the well-being of those without a home.
The course is further unique in its provision of opportunities to students with limited access to financial support: of the 40 students enrolled on the course, 23 are taken from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds outside of the university, their fees paid in full. This subsidisation will have a tangible impact on the students’ lives, making university a possibility for young people for whom it was formerly financially infeasible.
However, there is still more to be done at both a local level and in regarding the issue as a global epidemic. The university can aid the homeless and at-risk youths through the provision of more subsidised courses, as well as by increasing the quantity of scholarships awarded to conscientious and deserving young people, whose lives are equipped with a zeal for education but economic impediments. On-campus food banks are valuable initiatives to ensure that no student otherwise goes hungry. Often run by students, they are beneficial to both recipients and those behind the running of the enterprise, enhancing opportunities to become involved in the local community and to broaden perspective.
Additionally, the university need not limit assistance to that of exclusively physical nature: emotional support and that pertaining to mental well-being should be provided in abundance to disadvantaged and homeless students at the university, to guarantee the nurturing of the mind as well as the body.
And if you’re a student at Edinburgh, you can get involved yourself: supported by the global entrepreneurial scheme Enactus, Slurp is a student-led social enterprise group aimed at combating homelessness on the streets of Edinburgh. Slurp’s student leaders run soup stalls with beneficiaries on a weekly basis, allowing them to fund training and qualifications for homeless youths, as well as to provide employment opportunities and supporting them getting back on their feet.
Students can also participate in Social Bite’s ‘Sleep in the Park’, a nationwide initiative calling to terminate homelessness in Scotland ‘for good’. In late 2017, 8,000 people partook in the world’s largest sleep out in Prince’s Street Gardens, managing to raise four million pounds to go towards remedying the problem. Equipped with nothing but some warm coats and a sleeping bag, many of Edinburgh’s students slept under the stars in solidarity with the hundreds that sleep on their streets in this manner every night, the difference being that the latter have no choice.
Participation in initiatives such as Slurp and ‘Sleep in the Park’ does more than just raise financial capital for funding rehabilitation for the homeless: it affords students the opportunity to make a difference in their local community. Every person forced to sleep on Edinburgh’s streets tonight is a symbol of the city’s failure. That failure is a burden we all must bear, as members of the city and as students of its university. It’s time to be part of the solution.
Image: Sara Konradi