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Rowan Alba officially opens 9 new homes-for-life in Edinburgh

Thursday 23rd of February 2023 was a momentous day in Rowan Alba’s history. Staff, tenants, partners, stakeholders and friends gathered to officially open Thorntree Mill, our second homes-for-life.

Located in Edinburgh’s Peffermill, Thorntree Mill extends our provision by creating 9 safe, secure and fully supported homes for former street homeless men. This remarkable new facility is the culmination of over 2 decades of work, led by our CEO Helen Carlin. Helen’s determination to end the misery of repeat homelessness in inadequate temporary accommodation and prevent people dying needlessly on the streets of Scotland’s capital has delivered another real, lasting solution to homelessness.

A powerful partnership with Common Ground Against Homelessness

Tom Muir, Chair of Common Ground Against Homelessness

The creation of Thorntree Mill would not have been possible without the partnership of Common Ground Against Homelessness. The partnership sees Common Ground as property owners of the building in Peffermill and Rowan Alba as long term tenants. A 25 year lease ensures that the homes-for-life are just that. As an ethical landlord, Common Ground is committed to a rent for the building which stays in line with the Local Authority Housing Allowance rates. Common Ground Against Homelessness is officially registered as a Community Interest Company (CIC). This status allowed it to raise the capital to purchase and convert the building in Peffermill through a Community Share Offer on ethical investment platform Ethex. Funding was raised through The Charity Bank enabling every flat to be completely independent, with it’s own cooking and bathroom facilities. Major grant funding was also obtained through the Nationwide Building Society community grants, The Clothworkers’ Foundation, Crisis and the Quaker Housing Trust.

A masterpiece of design and functionality

Former Common Ground Against Homelessness Board member, Francis Barkey

The partnership between Rowan Alba and Common Ground Against Homelessness extended into all areas of the design and planning of Thorntree Mill. To ensure the building was fit for the needs of the tenants and staff the Rowan Alba team had an influence in the layout and facilities for the building. Common Ground Board member Francis Barkey used his extensive Construction industry experience to translate the requirements to the project team which included Ian Forbes Architects, CSQ Building Surveyors & Project Managers and RSP Consulting Engineers. The result is a facility designed for the wellbeing of it’s residents but which retains the original features of the building in a warm, homely environment.

The staff are the stars

Thorntree Mill Team Leader, Declan McKiernan

While the official opening of Thorntree Mill was in February 2023 the building opened it’s doors to the first tenants in September 2022. This period was used to build the community and staff team at a pace which suited them. Led by former Thorntree Street staff members, Declan McKiernan (Team Leader) and John Whelan (Senior Support Worker) the team implemented the Thorntree Model for a new cohort of tenants. Generally younger than the community at Thorntree Street, the tenants of Thorntree Mill required the staff to adjust their working practices. Over the last 5 months they have exhibited resilience, flexibility and commitment in their desire to create a safe, supportive community around the tenants.

A strong show of support

Miles Briggs, MSP at the launch of Thorntree Mill

Our opening was attended by people who have supported Rowan Alba for many years. We would like to thank all of the partners and stakeholders who attended and made the day extra special. Among the attendees were Housing Department staff from Edinburgh City Council, MSP for Lothian (Region) and Scottish Conservatives spokesman on Housing Miles Briggs and a news team from STV. Miles Briggs said: “It’s absolutely critical that we see more examples like this built across Scotland because we clearly have huge demand. At the moment, resources are not going to the right places, and we need to support more models like this.”

We would like to say an extra special thank you to the representatives of local community organisations who attended. Your support means a great deal when your time is so vital to the people who depend on you.

If you would like to see the brilliant coverage of the event from STV please click this link.

The furry fight against homelessness

Artie, passionate seeker of solutions to homelessness

We were also lucky enough to get a visit from Artemis (or Artie if you’re on first name terms). Artemis is passionate in her desire to end homelessness. She spends every waking moment tirelessly seeking out the root causes of homelessness and leaves no stone unturned in her quest to find solutions wherever she can. Thank you Artemis for your commitment to the cause. Seek it out Artie!