The Marie Trust was formed in 2009 and named after Marie O’Dea, an inspirational woman who cared for the homeless people in Glasgow.
The service was initially a crisis response service to address the immediate and longer-term needs of people who were rough sleeping and had no fixed abode. Much has changed in the way we have developed services; education, tenancy sustainment and counselling. A lot of these services were developed as a result of the support we have received from our funders who believed in our vision that homeless and at-risk people needed a range of opportunities to exit homelessness and prevent repeated rooflessness, and through listening to the people we support we developed services specifically to suit their needs. An example of this is our volunteering program, which was developed as a result of a man who was being bullied by his peers and wanted to break away for that circle and volunteer but didn’t want them to know as he felt they would take advantage of him.
We developed a role specifically for him as a tutor’s assistant; supporting our courses and coming into the service early in the morning and set up the class, the computers etc and supporting the tutor with tasks before the learners came in. He would them come back later in the day and help clear up and get things prepared for the next day. The role wasn’t a demanding role but what it gave to him was structure and safety and an opportunity to be mentored and plan his exit from homelessness with staff support. We are pleased to say that this man has never returned to our service, but we know that he is living in the community safely and well.
Through this approach, we also developed our Training Kitchen to provide real-life work experience and we took the first steps towards being an accredited Healthy Living Award Service in 2015, a radical change in our approach in how we addressed the inequalities in food poverty and insecurity whilst addressing the hunger and poor immune systems a lot of our clients experienced whilst living in poverty and on the streets. In 2016, we gained REHIS approval to become a Training Centre and also gained the prestigious Healthy Living Plus Award, which we are proud to continually hold.
In 2013 we developed a pilot of our Counselling Service, the first of its kind in Glasgow offering a psychodynamic approach to counselling and working with people who experienced trauma and distressing lives and not waiting for people to be ‘settled in accommodation’. We recognised that people need counselling when they are in crisis, and specialised support to help them remain safe and get off the streets into accommodation and to begin to address the trauma they lived with which harmed their adult lives.
Through the years we have developed strong partnerships originally with Stow College and Glasgow College of Nautical Studies, now Glasgow Kelvin College and City of Glasgow College to work together to widening access to education for homeless people and developed a curriculum that provided a transition into further education and away from homeless environments.
Education is vitally important for people who have experienced such discrimination as a result of their homeless or addiction in terms of their identity and how they feel about themselves. We receive so much feedback on the importance of recovery, in being involved in something which provides structure, purpose and meaning and helped people to regain a sense of pride in completing a course or going to college, many of whom had negative experiences of being in education or life had been too traumatic for them to focus or complete their schooling.
We developed specific courses to help people take the ‘First Steps into Education’ course our tutor developed to reduce the likelihood of drop out and to promote literacy and essay writing to ensure people took the steps into education with confidence. Our access to social subjects and expressive arts programs with the colleges continue to be a huge success in addressing the gaps in community learning and the leaps towards further education.
We are very much a service which is ‘heads down and get on with the job’, a small but progressive organisation, not afraid to take chances on new ideas and try different approaches. Our track record in developing services has enabled us stand out and be different.
In recent years we have developed a new Health and Wellbeing and Social Prescribing Service, to support people to reconnect with communities and to access wellness opportunities to overcome isolation and develop better mental health. We further developed our partnership with NHS Scotland to provide a Pharmacy Outreach Service to reduce hospital admissions in the homeless population and provide community medical support to people who are not engaging with traditional NHS Services.
2020 brought us many challenges with COVID-19 which we adapted successfully and remained open and in these challenges, we also planned our services to relocate to new premises providing disabled access and a non-judgemental environment where people could come to for support and not be identified as a homeless person by the building they were using.
2021 is an exciting time for us to develop our existing services but also strengthen our partnerships and work with our corporate partners to redesign our logo and website and to raise our public awareness of The Marie Trust services. We are moving to bigger, more accessible locations to deliver our services from, a move away from traditional older style homeless day centres into refurbished specifically designed buildings providing greater opportunities for engagement.