NEWS: Scotland leads the way with innovative arts projects for the homeless

Scotland is leading the way internationally with its innovative arts projects. From theatre performances and song writing in Glasgow to choirs and creative writing in Edinburgh, organisations across the country are using the arts to increase wellbeing for people who have experienced homelessness.

This work in Scotland has now caught the attention of With One Voice, the international arts and homelessness movement. It is now commencing work on the first ever Scottish arts and homelessness review, mapping the sector in the country and establishing development needs.

With One Voice strengthens arts and homelessness projects worldwide and aims to raise awareness of the benefits of the arts for homeless people. It is run by England-based arts and homelessness organisation, Streetwise Opera.

Homelessness is not just about housing and people who have experienced homelessness often face other challenges such as poor mental health and social isolation. Involvement in the arts has been shown to have a positive impact on physical, social, emotional and mental health. Participants who have experienced homelessness who take part in arts activities report increased wellbeing, improved social skills, and a greater sense of belonging and inclusion.

The national review of arts and homelessness is being led by Shelly Coyne, choir leader and PhD student at Edinburgh University. Coyne is working alongside a team of co-researchers (pictured above) who have experience both of being homeless and engaging in local arts projects.

A survey has been launched to find out more about arts and homelessness work in Scotland. People working or participating in arts projects or homeless services locally and any other interested parties can complete the survey at Coyne and the team are also visiting projects across the country.

Matt Peacock, Director of With One Voice, says: ‘We are very excited about working in Scotland and helping to support the arts and homelessness sector. There are a number of really strong projects in existence from the work of Citizens Theatre and Lodging House Mission in Glasgow to the Inspire Choir and Streetreads in Edinburgh.

‘We hope to shine a light of the exceptional work that is going on locally in this field and work with the sector and homeless people to support them to develop their work. Scotland also boasts some enlightened policy makers in government and Creative Scotland who are working hard to integrate arts more into social policy. We are very lucky to be working with Edinburgh University and Shelly and her team of dedicated co-researchers.’

Jacqui, a co-researcher who has discovered the therapeutic effects of choir singing (pictured right), says: ‘I was under a rock for a long time. I basically found the choir and started seeing some light. Basically the choir reached its branches out to me – it embraced me; it was like a huge family.’

As part of the national review, there will be a networking and consultation event in Edinburgh in autumn 2017. This will bring the whole arts and homelessness sector in Scotland together for the first time. The event will involve project partner Edinburgh University and also Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government.