Digital hub supported by Maria Wolters offers vital service to homeless community

[2021] An online service to improve support for people who are currently experiencing or are at risk of homelessness has been developed by researchers and community partners.

Photo of a man wearing a face mask typing on a mobile phone.

The website and app – called Street Support Edinburgh – provides advice, support and resources for vulnerable people, people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, the Edinburgh community and emergency services personnel. Organisers hope it will help reduce the number of people sleeping rough on the city’s streets.

Partnership project

Street Support Edinburgh has been developed as part of a project by the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Homeless Inclusion and Health (CHIH) and the Manchester-based Street Support Network.

Reader in Design Informatics Maria Wolters has assisted with technical aspects of the project, advising and supporting from the perspective of eHealth and service design. Maria's work on the digital hub helps to ensure that users can find the information they need quickly and with ease.

When it comes to providing a digital resource for those who experience or are in danger of homelessness, it’s crucial that information is easy to find, and that the resource can be accessed on basic computers and smartphones. Street Support Network already provides a fantastic foundation; I help adapt it to local Edinburgh needs.

Dr. Maria Wolters
School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh

Vital services

Organisers say the resource provides a vital service to vulnerable people and the community by providing accessible information in one easy to use location. A bank of information on providers of meals, drop-in services, food banks and accommodation is available on the service. The digital hub also features advice on financial help, health services and training and employment opportunities. Advice on Covid-19 and support available during the pandemic has been added.

The information hub was launched this week by the University of Edinburgh and the homelessness charity Simon Community Scotland, which runs the Streetwork service in Edinburgh.

Street Support Edinburgh features content from more than 30 organisations and has been backed by both Police Scotland and The City of Edinburgh Council.

The platform is the first resource of its type  in Scotland. Organisers are hoping to offer similar digital provision elsewhere in Scotland.

Street Support Edinburgh is a great opportunity for the University of Edinburgh to build on our existing community networks and to work together to help to reduce homelessness in our city.

Dr Fiona Cuthill
Director of the Centre for Homelessness and Inclusion Health at the University of Edinburgh

The Street Support Network has assisted in the launch of Street Support in several locations in England, such as Portsmouth and Cambridge.

A year of Covid-19 has been hugely challenging, but it has also forced all of us to rethink how we deliver our services and reach the most vulnerable people on our streets, with some incredible outcomes.

Lockdown created the opportunity for organisations in Edinburgh to come together and almost eradicate rough sleeping in the city. It has shown us what we can achieve by collaborating, being creative and keeping people at the heart of what we do. Street Support Edinburgh is a natural progression for us in connecting the talent, expertise and commitment of people and organisations across the city in preventing homelessness and the need for anyone to ever have to sleep on our streets.

Lorraine McGrath
Chief Executive, Simon Community Scotland

 The Street Support Edinburgh app is available to download from the Apple App and Google Play .

I welcome this innovative way of providing information, which will help people connect. Knowing how and where to get help and support is a crucial component of feeling included. I realise there are access issues for some people and we must search for solutions to help people connect.

Colin Beck
Chair of the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership at the City of Edinburgh Council

The Street Support Edinburgh  website

The Centre for Homeless Inclusion Health (CHIH)

Simon Community Scotland

[Image credit - Getty images/Podufuk}