Down and Safe on the Farm

The Cyrenian’s Farm near Humbie Holdings in West Lothian is a farm with a difference. Purchased 40 years ago by Edinburgh Cyrenians, this 10 acre small holding is home for up to 8 people at any one time, who might otherwise be homeless. But it isn’t just a stop gap hostel.

This is a real home, where residents have their own rooms, with their own pictures on the walls, and manage every aspect of communal living with all the social tensions that can involve. This home is also a place of work and training, as people of all ages who are at risk of losing their way are supported while they find their way through the maze of skills building, team building and home building.

Cyrenian Farm kitchenResidents are generally referred through Social Services, while some find their own way. Whilst staying at the farm, which is managed by Rob Davidson, the residents are supported by a number of British and International volunteers, some of whom also stay at the farm and are on hand to help with paperwork, organisation, practical training and, not least, friendship. Day volunteers help as required through the year.

Life is Turned Around
James is one of the residents whose life has been turned around. He used to come home from school every afternoon and get drunk. When he was 15, he stopped going to school altogether. He was living with his father until his dad threw him out of the house, forcing him to sleep rough.

“My life was rubbish,” he says. “I was sleeping in the streets, drinking all the time, and getting into trouble with the police.”

James has no delusions about what his life would have been like had he not been referred to the farm by his social worker. “I’d probably be an alcoholic,” he says. “Now I’m more confident and more active, and I feel healthier. I’ve cut down my drinking, and I feel like I might be able to go to college.”

Rob DavidsonOver 80% of young people say that their experience at Cyrenians Farm has improved their self-confidence, self-esteem, motivation and ability to manage their own lives. At this point they have access to private rented flats through the Cyrenians’ SmartMove Project and Tenancy Support Service, which ensures that the transition to mainstream living goes smoothly. Education and training is an important part of the project.

Farm Enterprise Manager Rob Davidson oversees the project and in his three years working here has witnessed many success stories.

“We have people of all ages here, with all sorts of backgrounds. We cover a whole cycle of risks,” he says. “We take our time to give them a safe place first of all and then, through therapeutic work, they learn practical and emotional skills.”

Two residents have been doing work placements on the farm under the New Deal programme, and the farm is also developing links with a college to enable the young people to earn accredited enterprise qualifications.

Job Vacancy
The farm is currently looking to recruit a Project Worker to work on the farm. The successful candidate will be an experienced organic grower, passionate about empowering young people and have an interest in social enterprise. Closing date for applications is 12 noon, Monday 9th June 2008.

Cyrenians vegetablesThe farm produces wonderful fruit and vegetables as well as livestock, including chickens and lambs. 200 apple trees have recently been planted and the jams and chutneys are particularly good. These are sold to help make ends meet as the farm and its residents are supported by a number of grants, but it is planned to be self-supporting.

You can now regularly find Cyrenians Farm Produce in Good Food (Morningside), Hendersons (Hanover St), Real Foods (Broughton St), Beets (Bernard St) and Relish (Bernard St). You will also be able to buy delicious jams from Peckhams branches in Edinburgh and perhaps one or two of the bigger grocery chains too! The farm also sells produce at Farmer’s Markets, the next 2 being on Saturday 14th June in Balerno and 19th July in Bathgate.

Edinburgh Cyrenians
is an independent charity providing innovative help to hundreds of people a year whose lives are blighted by homelessness and poverty.

Published by

Suse Coon

Suse Coon started life training to be an architect but ended up as a fashion buyer then civil servant. After some time out to bring up her family of three, she returned to what had been a hobby and entered the field of freelance journalism. After becoming regional correspondent, then editor of the orienteering magazine CompassSport, she formed Pages Editorial & Publishing Services. In this guise, West Lothian Life was launched, while Suse maintained a level of freelancing and wrote the award winning children's novel Richard's Castle. In 1999, Suse bought over CompassSport and found her time taken up pretty well exclusively with the two magazines. In 2004, West Lothian Life was expanded to form Lothian Life, however, the workload was too great. In 2006, CompassSport was sold and Suse concentrated on the web version of Lothian Life. Her hobbies include gardening, orienteering, sea kayaking and Tai Chi.

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