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Homeless people in Scotland may get the chance to move into a new eco-village after a high profile charity sleep-out involving celebrities and politicians raised more than £500,000 for the project.
The scheme to provide 10 environmentally-friendly purpose-built homes in Edinburgh is being run by Social Bite, a sandwich chain which supports and employs homeless people, in partnership with the council.
Around 20 residents will stay in the supervised “village” environment – with access to counselling, addiction therapy and budgeting advice – for up to 15 months before moving on to more permanent accommodation.
Work on the project is expected to begin within months, with the first residents moving in by the summer.
Participants who slept out to raise money for the scheme included Olympic cycling veteran Sir Chris Hoy. Actors George Clooney and Leonardo Di Caprio have visited Social Bite to show their support.
However, concerns have been raised that the new village could isolate residents by putting them in an institutional environment.
Dr Beth Watts, a research fellow at the city’s Heriot Watt University, said: “While it is innovative in some ways, it replicates things that have been going on for many years – namely, concentrating people together on the edge of the city in an institutionalised environment.”
“Evidence from around the world suggests that homeless people should instead be moved directly to permanent accommodation in mainstream neighbourhoods”, she told the Scottish Sun.
The Rock Trust, which works with young homeless people in Edinburgh have backed the comments made by Dr Watts.
Chief executive Kate Polson said: “What is really needed is affordable housing.
“I can understand why something like the village seems more appealing because it means more beds, but the problem is what happens after. The goal has to be to house people within communities and support them to live there."
But Social Bites founder Josh Littlejohn, who recently received an MBE for his work with homeless people, said the village would not be "isolated".
"The plan to build a village for the homeless is based on our five years of working with the homeless in the context of providing food, employment and opportunities and support," he added.
"The project plans to create a highly-supported environment, totally geared at breaking the cycle of homelessness."