[Photo: Andrew McCall, Iain Wilson, Kezia Dugdale MSP, and Lt-Col Jonathan Roberts]
The Salvation Army is hoping a film project involving leaders and representatives of the five main political parties will encourage more homeless people to vote.
Men and women facing the challenges of homelessness are getting the chance to quiz politicians on the issues affecting them.
Residents at the Salvation Army's Pleasance Lifehouse (centre for people experiencing homelessness) in Edinburgh have come up with some questions for Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale MSP. Centre manager Iain Wilson will pose these to Ms Dugdale when she visits at 10.30am.
Today's event is the first part of The Salvation Army's Scottish Election 2016 film project – a series of short films that will be created to highlight the main political parties’ responses to issues highlighted by the church and charity's frontline services. The issues are: drug and alcohol misuse, homelessness, employability, older people, and debt. The series of short films will be released on social media in the weeks before the Scottish Election on May 5, 2016.
Leaders and representatives from the five main political parties have accepted an invitation to visit a frontline Salvation Army service that deals with one of the issues in the films. A service user or a staff member will ask questions on how the party would respond to the issue.
Ms Dugdale MSP said: “I’m delighted to be visiting the Pleasance Lifehouse and to take part in the film project. Tackling the problems caused by poverty such as homelessness, unemployment, drug and alcohol misuse are at the core of Scottish Labour policies and I look forward to hearing and seeing first hand what the Salvation Army has to say on how to tackle these problems.”
Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Roberts, The Salvation Army's Assistant to the Secretary for Scotland, said: "This is a great opportunity for The Salvation Army and our service users to ask the questions that matter. For example, one issue that has come up among our service users is the availability of sustainable tenancies for vulnerable adults.
“It has all the hallmarks of being an interesting discussion and everyone at The Salvation Army is looking forward to it.”
Ben Watson is a service user at The Pleasance Lifehouse. He arrived at The Salvation Army centre in March, having slept rough in Edinburgh for a number of years.
The 36-year-old said: "I couldn't face the thought of another winter on the streets so I was delighted at getting a place at the Pleasance.
"When I first arrived I had issues with drugs and wasn't in the right frame of mind. But with the support of my key worker I was able to start feeling a bit better about myself.
"With that support I was able to stop taking drugs about three months into my stay here. Since then I have managed to stay clean although it has been a challenge. When I first got clean I was scared to leave the centre in case I fell back into my old ways.
"That fear soon passed and I've now stayed clean for four months. But I couldn't have achieved what I've achieved with the support of my key workers Moira and Kevin.
"Moira saw something in me when I first arrived and worked to help get into the right frame of mind. Then Kevin helped me with the practical side of things. They have both been incredible and I don't know what I'd have done without them. The next step for me is to find a place of my own but I’m a lot more confident of being able to do that now.”
Listen via SoundCloud: UCB News - Salvation Army's Scottish Election 2016 Film Project