Thorntree Street was opened in 2004 to provide secure supported accommodation for men aged 50 and over who have had a long history of rough sleeping, living in insecure accommodation or homeless hostels. Created in partnership with Bield Housing Association, Thorntree Street gave rise to a new approach to providing housing for a group of people who were independent by nature but were suffering from the effects of long-term alcohol use and living rough. Over time, this approach became known as the Thorntree Model, a highly effective working practice based on compassion without judgement or stigma.
Personalised support to live life as you choose
Thorntree Street contains 9 independent apartments with lift access, a full kitchen, communal areas with entertainment and a welcoming garden. Access to the building is controlled through a staffed entry point as some of the tenants are vulnerable and open to exploitation. Staff are on hand 24 hours a day to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the tenants.
Thorntree Street has no ‘conditions of stay’. In practice this means that tenants can come and go as they please and are not prohibited from bringing alcohol into the building. Staff build strong relationships with the tenants and are able to provide individualised support in many areas including housing management, independent living, health, addiction and disability. Support combined with Private Residential Tenancy agreements are the foundations of a service which provides safety and security to people who have repeatedly been stigmatised as ‘unsuitable’ by other services and told to leave. Since 2004, Thorntree Street has only had to ask one tenant to leave.
A compassionate and cost effective service
Thorntree Street’s effectiveness in stabilising the lives of it’s tenants has a broader effect on society. Some of the people who live at Thorntree have a history of rough sleeping, hospitalisations and interactions with the criminal justice system. The cost to society of treating and imprisoning them is high and ultimately ineffective.
The cost of providing care at Thorntree Street saves the public purse, on average, £3 for every £1 spent on the care. This fact is why we believe that the Thorntree Model of personalised support should be made available to and implemented in more long term supported accommodation services.
Routes to refferal
New tenants are referred to Thorntree Street 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.
Wellbeing for mind and body
Since 2021 Thorntree Street has had a full-time Wellbeing and Activities Co-ordinator on staff. By creating a structured weekly plan of activity they have given the tenants many new experiences and skills. All activities are part of the 5 pillars of Wellbeing:
The wellbeing & activities program has supported many of the residents to go out for more regular walks. Other physical exercises have included chair yoga, strength exercises, trips to the gym, a 5k charity run, cycling, and a Zumba session. One of the residents even attended his first swimming session for the first time in 40 years.
Tenants have enjoyed alternative therapies like meditation classes, sound/movement/drama therapies, reiki, massage and reflexology sessions. We also focus on healthy eating as most of the men at Thorntree Street have a nutrient deficiency and poor appetite due to alcohol use and habitually eating poor quality food.
The majority of the men at Thorntree Street have been socially isolated due to addiction, difficult family and friend relationships and poor mental health. The Wellbeing & Activities program has created safe spaces where tenants are able to connect with each other and volunteers during group activities.
Thorntree Street tenants have taken part in a number of community events intended to increase a sense of wellbeing. By attending the ‘All in for Change’ Scottish Government National Roadshow tenants were able to share their lived experiences of homelessness.
Thorntree Street tenants have a passion for learning new skills as a way of building a new enthusiasm for life. The most popular workshops have been music-making, art and cookery. Regular quizzes and outings to museums, galleries and theatres have also provided many opportunities for learning.
Gallery of life at Thorntree
Thorntree Street has a number of fruitful partnerships which bring new experiences and skills to the tenants.
Edinburgh Tool Library
ETL have supported our tenants and volunteers to learn woodwork skills. This led to the tenants buildng a table and bench for the garden and a strong connecting with staff and volunteers.
Edinburgh Food Social
Staff and volunteers from EFS have delivered cooking workshops to our tenants and also hosted a three-course meal for burns supper along with a poetry recital.
Fareshare have brought regular food donations that would otherwise be wasted. Staff at Thorntree St. have used this to create delicious meals and snacks for tenants.