The students engaging with local homelessness
Slurp is a student-run social enterprise which aims to engage with individuals affected by homelessness and raise awareness of its root causes. We hear from Kirsty Iona Fraser on how the group is helping tackle homelessness in Edinburgh.
Established in 2014, we previously functioned by making and selling soup on campus alongside young people who had experienced homelessness or were at risk of experiencing it. Last year, we drastically changed our business plan and now visit Streetwork’s Holyrood Hub where we run biweekly cooking sessions.
Streetwork is a communal space situated across from Levels, a café ran by the University, where people in difficult circumstances can access basic amenities and receive individual support from Streetwork staff members. Our cooking sessions there are facilitated with the aim of creating an inclusive environment where people can enjoy light-hearted informal conversation. We invite people into the kitchen to cook meals alongside us and we serve the meal to the wider community using Streetwork’s services that day. There is absolutely no pressure for service-users to commit their time to future cooking sessions. We arrive at Streetwork at the same time on the same days each week, and whether people choose to join us in the kitchen is entirely their choice.
No one can convincingly deny the prevalence of homelessness in Edinburgh, particularly around the university campus, yet it remains an issue which is easily ignored by those of us who are lucky enough to experience stable living conditions. The mainstream dialogue around homelessness frequently overlooks the complexity of the distinct factors that cause individuals to become displaced from their home. Governments continue to neglect people who are in these vulnerable situations as they fail to effectively reform health and housing policy and maintain the inaccessibility of support services.
While student-run organisations in Edinburgh brainstorm ways they might provide forms of support to rough sleepers, working with vulnerable people poses countless challenges, with the impacts of such work being difficult to produce and complicated to measure. We have an incredibly dedicated team of members who facilitate our work. Our aim is to build a forum for homelessness through our online presence, using our blog and social media to further educate people on the causes of homelessness and the misconceptions surrounding it, amongst other related issues. This year, we established a campaign and outreach team who work to raise awareness of the challenges surrounding homelessness. This team creates campaigns, organises events and works closely with our online presence team to convey their messages. An example of our most recent campaign ‘Home’ can be viewed here.
Slurp and the work we do from cooking sessions to events, hand-outs, campaign production and everything in-between, is funded by selling reusable shopper bags, made from sustainably sourced cotton, and cooking vouchers. As a social enterprise, one hundred per cent of our profits are reinvested into our ventures, with previous extra revenue from sales being used to purchase 50 hot flasks to hand out to rough sleepers.
The issues facing those experiencing homeless are complex. Despite efforts to educate ourselves, we remain aware that our knowledge and experience pales in comparison to that of Streetwork staff members. We are students — our resources and expertise are limited and consequently the work we can do to support people with complicated and diverse needs is restricted. Yet within a framework of empathy and critical self-reflection, we can use strategies of communication and education to create small-scale impact within our community. The interests of people experiencing homelessness are at the heart of any work Slurp does, and we aim to base the growth of our project on the advice from professionals who work alongside individuals affected by homelessness but, more importantly, the feedback we receive from those who use our services.
It is essential that our team critically reflects on every aspect of our project delivery so that our impact is respectful in its tone. We ensure that the language we use to discuss homelessness maintains the dignity of people who are experiencing it, trying to remind ourselves of how our privileges create inherent barriers that prevent us from fully understanding the complexity of homelessness. We try our best to remain realistic about the impact we can make, constantly reassessing the way we operate, listening to advice and actively seeking ways we can educate ourselves and others of how, as a community, we can better support and listen to those who are vulnerable.
To keep updated with the work we do and to engage with issues of homelessness, follow us on social media and feel free to get in touch to find out how you can support the work Slurp does.