In 2018 the charity opened a homeless village in Edinburgh, providing support for up to 20 people by giving them a place to sleep, helping them to learn new skills and helping them with work and voluntary placements.
Following the success of that project, Social Bite has announced it will open a new centre in Dundee which will expand the focus from exclusively homelessness to supporting a range of vulnerable people struggling with addiction.
Last year 1,051 people in Scotland died for drug-related reasons, by far the highest rate of any country in Europe, including the rest of the UK.
Scotland’s drug death rate is still more than three times higher than the next worst affected European country.
Dundee City was second only to Glasgow City in drug deaths, with by 43.1 deaths per 100,000 people.
The new centre will house a state-of-the-art recovery facility and residents of the village will also be supported by on site staff and a local network of resources dedicated to helping people with addiction.
Social Bite are working in partnership with addiction specialist charity We Are With You to develop a tailored support model for the village that works for the needs of people in Dundee.
The accommodation at the Dundee project will be 15 eco-friendly prefabricated ‘nest houses’ with a bedroom, kitchen, lounge area and storage, alongside a community hub complete with communal dining space, gym facilities and counselling rooms.
Bespoke individual residential units will be constructed to create a secure and private community environment and everyone who is given a place in the village will be supported through the process to find permanent accommodation as part of their recovery, should that be required.
Josh Littlejohn MBE, founder of Social Bite said: “The Edinburgh project is focused more on homelessness, this one – while it will also help homeless as part of the mix of people – it’s going to be a range of people all from vulnerable backgrounds and deprived areas with a broader focus rather than just on homelessness.
“The two are very much inter-linked, I think sometimes the cause and effect of homelessness and addiction can be confused by the public.
“Everyone assumes that someone became addicted to drugs or alcohol and then subsequently became homeless, in our experience it’s the reverse of that and it’s the homelessness that precedes the addition.
“It’s just a hopeless, cold, scary living environment you find yourself in when you’re homeless and often people turn to some kind of escape.
“It’s certainly something that since we started Social Bite we’ve noticed there’s a big overlap with the demographic you’re trying to support.
“It’s something we’ve always wished we had a bit more within our own provision of services, if someone is in the throes of addiction you can sometimes feel a bit helpless in terms of being able to support them.
“Hopefully this can be a new model that can make a big difference from that perspective.
“If you look at any residential recovery facility – and I’ve been to visit a few – they tend to always be premised on the idea of community living and mutual support.
“I think that will be the heart of it, to build that sense of community which has been one of the defining factors of the Edinburgh village project.
“We hope it will be a world-class environment for people to stay once they’re there and also have world-class support to give people the best chance to break free from any addiction issues they want to overcome.”
Social Bite is in discussion with Dundee City Council on a site for the project and expects to be able to submit a full planning application before the end of the year.
Colin is a former addict who was supported by the charity through his recovery.
He said: “I’m an ex-addict and I was homeless when I got introduced to Social Bite through a mate.
“I volunteered for a few weeks before I got a job.
“I got sober myself but they kept me on the right road to recovery, I got put on Subutex when I stopped taking heroin. I’d just had enough of taking drugs and wanted to get clean and I’ve been clean for 10 years now, and that’s thanks to the job.
“I think the centre will be great, and really good for the city as well because it’ll get people off the street.
“The thing about addiction is that you have to want to do it for yourself before you do it for anyone else, it’s a big step to take.
“Stopping taking drugs is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but it’s been worth it.”