1. Home
  2. >
  3. Our services
  4. >
  5. Thorntree Mill

Supported accommodation

About Thorntree Mill

Thorntree Mill was opened in 2022 to provide long-term supported accommodation for up to 9 men under 50 who had been living rough on the streets of Edinburgh. Thorntree Mill’s staff have built an innovative approach to supported living for younger homeless people who are often suffering mental illness and drug addiction. The principle of support without judgement that lies at the heart of the Thorntree model is the basis of the care offered by the staff team with adaptations for the needs of each tenant.

Wellbeing and pragmatism at heart

Within Thorntree Mill a real community has grown around tenants who have lived traumatising daily lives for many years. Alongside street homelessness, the tenants share lived experiences including addiction, care, detention in mental health services and prison. It is only through the compassion and patience of our staff that a liveable environment which puts the needs of the tenants first has been made possible.
Thorntree Mill has a full-time Wellbeing and Activities Co-Ordinator who has created a programme of well-attended regular activities and events which are designed to create a sense of community between the tenants and staff. Hosted both in Thorntree Mill and public venues, these events not only break down the social stigma suffered by the tenants but also provide them with new skills and experiences which help them to thrive in their new lives.

A better service through psychology

In 2024 Thorntree Mill will embed a resident Psychologist within the service. The mental health of the tenants can be very challenging due to long-term homelessness and trauma. The project will work for up to 3 years and aims to fill a gap that currently exists in the provision of psychological care to people who have experienced trauma and homelessness in Edinburgh, prevent repeat homelessness, and reduce demands on other services such as health or housing, at the same time, reducing public costs.

Thorntree Mill opening film

Routes to referral

New tenants are referred to Thorntree Mill by Social Work through The Access Practice, an integrated NHS health service based in Edinburgh which supports anyone experiencing homelessness and has complex additional needs. Along with Edinburgh City Council and NHS Lothian, The Access Place is a part of Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership who’s mission is to deliver a caring, healthier and safer Edinburgh. Thorntree Street is proud to be able to provide secure, long-term accommodation to people who have been referred to us through this route..

A growing community away from the streets

The dedication and commitment of the staff at Thorntree Mill has grown a real community around the tenants. Regular resident meetings give the tenants a chance to take an active role in decision-making of the centre. Since they are free to come and go from Thorntree Mill the tenants are still members of a community outside the building. The staff are aware of the vulnerabilities of the tenants and actively work to protect them from exploitation.
The Wellbeing and Activities programme has brought many new experiences and opportunities to the community at Thorntree Mill. Through partnerships with local community organisations the tenants have enjoyed activities including go-karting, art classes and cooking workshops. These activities are vital in building community between the residents and staff.

A collaborative movement against unsuitable accommodation

Rowan Alba’s new homes-for-life centre at Thorntree Mill has been a collaborative initiative with Common Ground Against Homelessness.

They have a mission to redress the inequality within the property market which prevents housing charities from finding suitable buildings when in competition with commercial landlords and property investors. Common Ground Against Homelessness launched it’s first Community Share Offer in 2020 through the ethical investment platform, Ethex. The share offer raised a staggering £720,000 in under six weeks. The aim of the share offer was to purchase the building in Peffermill and convert it into nine homes-for-life. Rowan Alba was an active partner in the share offer from the outset and The Thorntree Model was instrumental in persuading investors of the validity of the investment proposal.
With the main part of the capital required for the building renovation secured, the focus switched on to the functional aspects of the building and the implementation of the service. The future staff team brought their knowledge to the design phase, guiding Common Ground’s team towards a building design that would provide the homes-for-life and supporting areas needed for the type of individuals likely to be resident at Thorntree Mill.

This innovative and collaborative solution to homelessness is an important step for Rowan Alba and the expansion of our services. Thorntree Mill is a living example of how to create an environment that allows people left behind by mainstream society to grow and flourish in a stable home.

Meet our team

Our team at Thorntree have a wide range of skills and knowledge that support our tenants at all levels.

Declan McKiernan

Service Leader

Emma Woodward

Well-being and Activities Coordinator