This month James Evans, Health Inequalities Volunteer (Voluntary Health Scotland) met with Helen Carlin, Chief Executive of Rowan Alba. The unusual name is because, in Celtic mythology, the Rowan tree was known as the Travelers’ Tree as it prevented people on a journey getting lost. Rowan Alba services work across Scotland today to support vulnerable people on their journey to a home of their own.
The goal is to provide homeless people with the skills and the assets to live safely and healthily in their own home. Their service users have been dislodged from housing for many reasons such as domestic abuse, alcoholism and drug abuse.
For people who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness, poverty is a very significant issue. Helen recognises poverty as the major contributing factor in creating health inequalities. Getting good quality advice and information on ways in which to improve the quality of health is hard. In this digital age there are many information advice websites, however most homeless people, or people living in shelters, have no internet access. Rowan Alba are able to assist with accessing a wide range of health services. Helen pointed out that although the task of helping service users meet their clinical appointments seems trivial, it is vital for the improvement of their health and wellbeing. This is an issue that is even more problematic for those living in rural areas. For these rural areas their Perth service provides floating support across Perth, Kinross, Dundee and Angus.
Rowan Alba have services across Edinburgh and these accommodate a range of homeless people and support them in varying ways.
Thorntree Street, in Leith, focuses on supporting men aged 50 and over who would otherwise be sleeping rough. They are maintained in their own tenancy which creates a safer environment for them, saves the public purse and allows the men’s health to improve. The service recognises and values people as unique individuals.
CARDS is the newest of the Rowan Alba services and works closely with individuals who have had problematic long term use of alcohol. This is a volunteer led service, which has an impact upon the service users who often have low self-esteem and wellbeing. The introduction of a friendly and supportive person to talk to can relieve stress and aid the health and wellbeing of an individual in a major way.
Stramullion is another excellent project that is run in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council. This is for women with children who are homeless and are placed in their own flats. A detailed personal support plan is tailored to each individual and again focuses on improving health and wellbeing.
All of these service, and the rest of Rowan Alba’s networks, offer advice and support as well as brining a clear social aspect into their lives. It is clear that they are doing their upmost to improve health inequalities.
In recent times Rowan Alba have been facing an issue of maintaining their funding. They are running many fundraising events such as the comedy night on the 21st of January at the Stand Comedy Club and a wine tasting quiz on the 25th of April. More information on the events can be found on their website. By finding innovative ways to generate funding Rowan Alba are able to continue to provide an effective and focused service which reduces health inequalities for some of Scotland’s most socially exclude citizens.