2020 was extraordinary!

Everything changed.  The far reaching consequences of a global pandemic challenged the way we live, work and relate to each other.  Many of the assumed ways we respond to social issues did not stand up to the harsh scrutiny of a transmissible virus and new ways of working developed, like green shoots of recovery growing between the cracked paving of the old world.


The early part of 2020 in the UK found us in a place we had never been. A global pandemic.

The news was full of healthcare under pressure and lives being torn apart by the new virus, Covid19.



The unknown.

People experiencing homelessness and living on the streets were understood to be highly vulnerable to the virus.

In the UK, unprecedented action was taken. Bureaucracy was pushed aside, collaborators including government, support agencies, charities, businesses and individuals all joined forces. ‘Red tape’ fell away as those working in the third sector in Scotland found that they had access to funding and were able to act quickly. The city was turned upside down.

With funding from Lankelly Chase, Cyrenians captured all of this amazing activity by asking frontline staff working in the homelessness sector, managers and people experiencing homelessness to document their experiences through poems, songs, video interviews, reflective journals, tweets and photographs.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh analysed all of this fantastic ‘real time’ material and have produced a report. This exhibition aims to share these materials with you.

Note about the exhibition:

During the conception of the ‘Living through Covid’ project, the desire was to encourage participants (people who had experienced homelessness and frontline workers) to represent their experiences using arts-based methods and submit these as data for the report. The opportunity to be interviewed was also offered. The project gathered a number of photographic, poetic, song and tweet-based data.

We would like to express our sincere thanks to the people experiencing homelessness and the staff working in third sector and homelessness organisations who generously shared their experiences, and perceptions, of working in the sector during the first phase of the Covid19 crisis in Scotland. This research was co-constructed in partnership with Dr Shelly Coyne from Cyrenians, who collected the data for the ‘Living through Covid’ project, and Mike Wright, Cyrenians and our Edinburgh Advisory Group, who took part in a workshop run by Dr Fiona Cuthill and Dr Rosie Stenhouse, to contribute to the further analysis of the data, feedback on the initial findings, development of the recommendations and to curate the exhibition. Thank you to them for their time and enthusiasm for this research.

On the exhibition page you will find the curated selection of this creative work, as well as poems by Dr Rosie Stenhouse. Participant work remains anonymous by their choice.

The project team for this website and exhibition included:

Ursula Hofeldt, Policy and Participation Manager, Outreach, Cyrenians

Mike Wright, Senior Service Manager, Outreach, Cyrenians

Dr Fiona Cuthill, Senior Lecturer in Nursing Studies in the School of Health in Social Science, University of Edinburgh

Dr Rosie Stenhouse, Senior Lecturer in Nursing Studies in the School of Health in Social Science, University of Edinburgh

Dr Patricia Erskine, CAHSS Head of Stakeholder Relations and Director, Culture & Community for the Edinburgh Futures Institute, University of Edinburgh

Jennifer Williams, Creative Projects Manager, Edinburgh Futures Institute, University of Edinburgh

Partners in this project include: 


The University of Edinburgh (School of Health in Social Science and Edinburgh Futures Institute)

Lankelly Chase