New Kirk Moderator vows to fight for the homeless

New Moderator Rev Dr Russell Barr at the Fresh Start charity which he founded in Edinburgh. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
New Moderator Rev Dr Russell Barr at the Fresh Start charity which he founded in Edinburgh. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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THE SCALE of homelessness in Scotland is a “damning indictment” on modern society and politicians must do much more to tackle the problem, the incoming Moderator of the Church of Scotland has said.

The Rev Dr Russell Barr, who vowed to spend the majority of his year as Moderator fighting homelessness, said it was “obscene” that so many people were without safe and secure accommodation and challenged the Scottish and UK governments to act.

“The common denominator of homelessness is poverty and we are living at time when services are being cut back. The Scottish Government has made a commitment in their manifesto to provide at least 50,000 more affordable homes over the next five years. I’m very keen to engage with the political world to see what proportion is going to be social affordable housing”, Dr Barr said.

Dr Barr, who founded the Edinburgh-based Fresh Start project, which provides starter packs of household goods donated by church members for homeless people moving into a home, said the issue was one of the greatest challenges of modern times.

Speaking at the project’s depot in Pilton, Dr Barr, 62, minister at Cramond Kirk in Edinburgh since 1993, who will take up the official role of Moderator on Saturday at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said: “Homelessness is a damning indictment on modern society.

“It is a disgrace and should not happen in the UK which is the fifth richest economy in the world.

“We worry about health and education and one of the best ways to improve standards is to ensure people are properly and safely accommodated.

“Tackling the obscenity of homelessness must be a key priority for the Scottish and UK governments because if you believe in a progressive, modern Scotland you must make sure that people are properly housed.”

Official statistics show that 35,764 homeless applications were made to local authorities across Scotland in 
2014-15. More than 4,000 homeless applications were made in Edinburgh in 
2014-15.

Dr Barr, originally from Kilmarnock, left school at age 16 without qualifications to pursue his dream of becoming a professional golfer before attending Langside College in Glasgow. He later studied at Edinburgh University and for a doctorate at Princeton Theology Seminary in the US.