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'The Care Shelter Saved My Life'

'The Care Shelter Saved My Life'

Wednesday August 8

 

“THE choir is like a family for me”.

Benson is 70 years old. He’s a member of the ‘Lost and Found Choir', and to Benson, it’s been a lifeline.

Kenyan-born Benson came to Scotland from London in early 2014.

“I worked as a security guard,” he says. “But at the end of the year I lost my job. With that went my income, and I quickly fell behind with my rent. I was asked to leave and before I even knew it, I found myself homeless.

“I would stay in Waverley Station to try to keep dry and in the daytime, I’d try to sit in the city library to keep warm. I walked and walked the streets.”

Then, one night, he heard about the Bethany Winter Care Shelter, and made his way there.

Benson stayed in the Winter Care Shelter for three weeks in early 2015; but in the spring of that same year, Benson was able to move out of the Shelter into temporary accommodation where he lives today. Bethany’s Winter Care Shelter provides a free night shelter and sleeping facilities to people who are homeless. Started in Edinburgh in 1996 with a two-week pilot over Christmas, the Shelter has grown over the years to span six and a half months, providing overnight shelter every day of the week from October until April.

It was while he was staying at the winter care centre that he heard about the choir.

“The choir is like a family for me. I’m in three choirs: Lost and Found with Bethany, one with Crisis and one at the Grassmarket Community Project. I mostly like gospel music.” Benson says.

The Lost and Found Choir is made up of a group of six men, who, like Benson, have been homeless. They perform at care homes and local events.

They got together as part of Bethany’s Community Support Development Programme, geared towards creating communities as a first step towards combating homelessness.

The role that the Lost and Found choir has played in Benson’s journey out of homelessness has been tremendous. Benson celebrated his 70th birthday recently – and who else would he celebrate with than his choir family?

Now in temporary accommodation he has a lawyer helping him get a pension as he only has £60 a week for electricity and food. Every Thursday he goes to the Council to collect money and top up his electricity. He also attends Crisis community projects and is part of the ‘A-Team Homeless Action Group' for people in temporary accommodation to contribute to how these can be improved.

“The Choir has freed me of stress and has increased my self-esteem and confidence. I’ve met so many people with different ideas such that I’m always learning. Now I never feel alone,” he says.

“I am so grateful to Bethany for supporting people like me. The Care Shelter saved my life. I was so stressed when I was sleeping rough, but I discovered that singing released my stress. When you sing, you don’t have time to think about anything else. That’s what I use singing to do. That’s why I’m here at the Choir. It is free to sing and when I sing I feel good.”