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About us

History of Rowan Alba

Rowan Alba was created to respond to a specific need to end unsafe and dangerous conditions for homeless people by creating homes and services that provide them with dignity and the support they need.

Safe and secure accommodation since 2004

Rowan Alba began to deliver its unique blend of Care at Home and Supported Living with the opening of Thorntree Street in 2004. Originally a part of a UK wide charity, Rowan Alba became independent in 2005.

The aim of Thorntree Street was to provide secure tenancies to older people who had a history of homelessness and a long-term history of problematic alcohol use.

Thorntree Street made housing first a priority and put the security and dignity of its tenants at the forefront of that it did. In the following years our charity has developed more services in Edinburgh which reduce the chances of people becoming homeless or, where this has happened, provide people with the ongoing care and support they need.

How our services have grown

Starting from Thorntree Street in 2004, we have grown a set of strategically-designed services which are effective in coping with the human impact of unsuitable services or policies and addressing the root causes of homelessness in our communities. Our services often exists as a part of pathway from the NHS into the community. What binds these various solutions together is a compassionate approach built around every individual’s needs.


Supported accomodation with Scottish Assured Tenancies for up to 12 former street homeless men in a communal setting. Support with physical and emotional health and managing alcohol use.


Transitional housing for up to 10 women. Supports women both emotionally and practically to obtain tenancy’s, learn life skills, be independent, gain confidence and meet new people.


Community Alcohol Related Damage Service is a befriending service which provides emotional health and social networks to service users through volunteers.


Supported living for 9 former street homeless men. This has been part-funded through Community Share Investment in partnership with Common Ground Against Homelessness

Building on a legacy of compassionate, effective care and support

After nearly two decades of hard work and dedication, our Thorntree Housing model has been showcased as an example of what supported housing as a settled housing option for homeless people should look like. 

Homeless Network Scotland’s recent Shared Spaces report highlighted the need for supported, trauma informed environments to house people for whom mainstream housing (including Housing First) was not an option.

Loneliness was also highlighted as a strong factor as to why someone would choose supported housing.  The research confirmed that there is very little settled i.e. permanent supported housing used as a response to homelessness. 

The research recommendations aligned closely with what Rowan Alba already provides, namely:

  • Self-contained, individual properties which offer private space
  • Person-centred 24/7 contact from support staff in a safe, trauma-informed, ‘non-institutional’ environment
  • Secure housing tenure (Scottish Secure tenancy)
  • A culture centred on rights and independence

You can download and read the full report from Housing Network Scotland by clicking here.