A unique fashion show has given our service users a platform to showcase their style talents, and their strength and determination in overcoming adversity.
Salvation Army service users from across Scotland have staged and starred in a fashion extravaganza at the charity’s community church in Inverness. Around 30 budding fashionistas were given a strict £20 budget to buy or create an outfit that they took to the catwalk to model.
Organiser Helen McKay says the fashion show was designed to celebrate lives transformed – and to make people feel better about themselves, especially around Christmas time when so many feel especially vulnerable and isolated.
People living in Salvation Army centres (lifehouses) often face a range of obstacles in rebuilding their lives after experiencing homelessness, from addressing mental health issues or relationship breakdowns to facing up to drug or alcohol addictions.
Helen, who is The Salvation Army's assistant homelessness manager for Scotland, said: "Not only was the fashion show a fun day for those taking part but also required them to work as a team with their support workers and fellow service users. Our guys and girls really felt a sense of purpose as they worked towards the event.
"We gave each person £20 to create an outfit and set that as a limit to challenge their creativity. People were able to use the money to buy something they can use again in the future. For example I know of one guy who bought a suit that he plans to wear for job interviews. Others made their outfits from scratch.
“Our service users were involved at every part of the fashion show, from the music and lighting to the hair and make-up. And of course the modelling bit as well. It underlines our belief that all our service users are individuals of value and worth who we want to see triumph whatever challenges they face. We want them and the wider public to realise is that homeless may be what they are but it’s not who they are.
“We’re also delighted that we had support on the day from a group of hair and beauty students from Inverness College, who made sure our models looked their glamorous best.”
Grace Reilly is a service user at The Salvation Army’s Eva Burrows 1st Stop Project for homelss men and women.
She came to the centre after splitting from her boyfriend. Grace has a learning disability but insists it's not a barrier that has not held her back.
She did not attend high school but taught herself how to read and write, and learn basic numeracy and how to cook.
Grace is hoping to get her life back on track and hopefully get regular access to her 11-year-old son. Grace has applied to study British Sign Language at South Lanarkshire College.
She says the build up to and taking part in the fashion show has boosted her confidence and self esteem.