Destiny Angels: “poverty does not end at Christmas”
Destiny Angels, based in Glasgow’s Gorbals district, is a social action programme which provides food, clothing and access to trained counsellors to people from all backgrounds, including the homeless and refugees.
The group recently distributed 500 food and clothing parcels following a successful Christmas fundraising programme, but is already looking for more donations to help others in the New Year.
“Poverty does not disappear when Christmas ends,” said David Thomson, Destiny Angels director.
“People are often more generous in the festive season but our message is that the most vulnerable require support no matter what month it is. More and more people are looking for assistance and we want to ensure we are in a position to help them.”
Destiny Angels was established by the Destiny Foundation in 2009, a non-demonitional church, to offer support to those who find themselves destitute for whatever reason.
It is designed to be more than a foodbank, with a broad range of services available, as well as a referral point to other local authority and charitable programmes.
The majority of those who use Destiny services are immigrants - many of whom are asylum seekers who have fled war-torn countries such as Syria or Afghanistan.
There are also many individuals who have fled political persecution in places like Iran, Eritrea or Sudan.
In addition, many Scots, particularly those facing benefit sanctions, apply for food packs from Destiny.
During a typical week, around 170 people will pass through the Destiny Angels building in South Portland Street.
More than 1000 have received support in the past year, with individuals able to return three times in six months.
“The poorest people we help are those that have been refused asylum, destitute immigrants,” said project manager Frances Sutherland, 53. “We provide a bag every week to them, and one every two weeks to those whose asylum applications are still being processed.
“Our interim food programme, meanwhile, supports people who are in-between benefits, who could be left six-to-eight weeks with no income, or those who have been sanctioned. There’s also people who have been given leave to remain in the country, which means the £5 a day they previously received as an asylum seeker has come to an end.”
“We do require people provide evidence, such as a sanction letter, or Home Office documentation.”
Support services are offered to those who may have been victims of abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking.
Many examples of the desperate circumstances some individuals faced before seeking help from Destinys Angels could not be repeated in a newspaper.
“We don’t have a typical client,” added Sutherland. “Many of our clients from the UK have went through family breakdowns - perhaps a death in the family has knocked their confidence and they have spiralled into addiction. Many have come through abusive childhoods and ended up homeless.”
Staff, although trained to deal with all eventualities, were shocked when an asylum seeker broke down at the Destiny centre recently. When asked what was wrong, he revealed he had been sent footage of his family being executed.
“We do hear some very traumatic stories,” Sutherland continued. “But our vision is we’re doing more than handing over a bag. Part of project work is trying to assess their need and then help them. If we’re not capable of meeting that need, we will refer them to other agencies across the city that can. That can be anything from legal help. or even finding furniture.
“There is also the chance to volunteer. Regardless of their nationality, those that have been helped by Destiny can in turn help others. This gives them a reference point when looking to find a job or enter further education.”
A Glasgow man, who once struggled with addiction, has recently completed training in accountancy following support from Destiny, for example.
The need to continuously source donations was proved by Destiny Angels’ recent Christmas Hamper campaign.
This month, the charity gave out 500 food parcel, as well as clothing. All the items were donated my members of the public and collected by a team of volunteers.
Much of it was sourced by a group of Motherwell supporters, calling themselves Street Scran, who arranged for donation points to be set up at the club’s Fir Park stadium.
“They asked what we needed, and away they went. I told then we needed clothing as well as food. It was a huge amount they collected,” said Sutherland. “Bags and bags and bags.”
Although part of the wider Destiny church, whose congregation speaks at least 57 different languages, the Destiny Angels programme expects no religious commitment from those it helps.
“People are referred to us from other agencies,” added Sutherland. “Our volunteers are not all church members. What matters is helping people when they are vulnerable and ensuring they receive the right support in their hour of need.”