Street Fit Scotland is an organisation created from a clear need, as our founder and CEO Michelle Reilly explains:
“I’ve worked with the homeless population for 25 years. I am often asked how I managed to stay so energetic and positive even on tough days when hearing traumatic stories of how the people who engage with us have ended up homeless. Every time I am asked, I respond a the same way –“exercise gives me the mental and physical strength to meet each day with a smile”. Hearing the positive impact directly for participants and through our evaluation continues to fill me the determination to continue to deliver the best service we can.
In my previous frontline roles working in hostels, the idea of setting up SFS Stemmed from taking groups of residents to the local gym. The impact was phenomenal, I built relationships with the coaches at the local gym, the two main coaches at this gym delivered 2-3 weekly sessions for us. I would like to thank Fraser and Ross for their support at the very beginning of my journey to reduce health inequalities.
The positive impact on everyone was immediately evident – it was so great to see! I began to get a core group of people wanting to come every week and it basically snowballed from there. I knew I was onto something, so I set up Street Fit Scotland – and 8 years on we are a thriving Edinburgh service.
SFS began as a passion project for me but as the years have gone on it is clear there is immediate and proven benefits to using exercise as means to combat long-term homelessness and building community connection is key to why we are such a successful and life-line service to many.
Having something positive to attend regularly and being able to build up healthy relationships with each other and the SFS staff team has created a great support network for the people who choose to engage with us is invaluable. A community surrounded by negative influences whilst in temporary accommodation.
SFS is not just about the exercise and social support. We provide one-to-one drug/alcohol support. Mental health 1 to 1, group support and critical crisis intervention. Access to our IT suite so that people can access and bid for housing. We work alongside housing, social work, health, Re-hab. G.P services as well as sign posting to relevant services.
We provide nutritional meals after most sessions at our community base where powerful conversations take place by shared stories about some of the issues that impact the SFS people. We aim to inspire people to make the changes that they recognise to improve lives/lifestyles to get their lives back on track.
For some this has meant being able to beat addictions, volunteer with us, gain employment and get their lives back on track. I am enormously proud of what we have achieved as a community. With your help we can reach more people!“
Experiencing homelessness leaves a lasting impact. At risk populations can live in temporary accommodation for up to two years before they gain their own tenancy. This includes Bed and Breakfasts, hostels, supported accommodation and Private Sector Leasing flats. They are often stuck in environments that are not always suitable for their situation and often insecure.
The instability of this situation can cause serious damage to mental health which permeates throughout an individual’s life.
Through this shared experience we are aiming to create a community for Scotland’s homeless population built on positive shared experiences and the relationships formed through our classes. This ultimately gives our participants a support network and friendships which reduces social isolation and poor mental health common in the homeless population.
In 2021 we delivered 260 fitness sessions. By engaging in just one of our classes each week our participants can improve their fitness and become healthier and stronger both mentally and physically. Being active has numerous benefits and has been proven to reduce depression, addiction, and a wide range of other issues. With something positive to focus on our participants can then improve in other aspects of their lives.
All our sessions are engineered to make people feel good about what they achieve at SFS. All our coaches/ instructors/staff/ volunteers and trustees are PVG checked and fully qualified. Our fitness sessions are adapted for the individuals and groups we work alongside.
Offering a variety of physical fitness, social activities indoors and outdoors building autonomous (self-directed) supportive relationships building on trusting relationships. Over the past 8 years we have ensured that we have listened and adapted the sessions people have told us what they want to see us deliver Peer-led gym group, Zumba dance.
This year 2023 our weekly sessions have included Muay Thai boxing training, cardio fitness classes, Core, stretch and strength, and Boxercise.
Gentle fitness walking groups and social activities “Getting to know your city project. This project was designed to show people what goes on in Edinburgh city. We have visited Edinburgh castle, Camera obscura, the national museum of Scotland. Cinema trips. Out door golf at Bruntsfield links, Volcano falls (Indoor golf), Gravity trampolining, Ten Pin bowling, Laser-station.
12 weeks of beach-fit @ Gullane beach giving different groups the opportunity to get out of the city. Exercising session with a fitness coach at the beach, swimming in the sea, Beach walks.
Reducing barriers to participation
We value people who have a lived experience giving opportunities for participants to inspire others by becoming Peer Champions. Peer Champions are key to the delivery of the SFS service as they have experienced and overcame obstacles in their own lives. They welcome new starts and buddy up with them at their first sessions. We recognise that they deserve to be valued for showing support and kindness to everyone. They are someone to look to if any new starts need reassurance. SFS Champions cannot be missed as they wear SFS hoodies with ‘Champion’ written on them. We believe that everyone at SFS can be a will become a champion and champion nominations take place at our AGM’s. Peer champions are nominated by the staff and participants can also nominate each other.
At Street Fit Scotland we are committed to providing a research and community led approach to our services.
We have listened, learned, and adapted our programme throughout 2020 by gathering evidence using a variety of methodologies to cater for the differing needs and preferences of all who use the service. This has included graffiti boards around the community base asking specific questions on how we can improve the service for those who prefer to provide informal feedback, questionnaires, 1 to 1 interview for those with literacy issues and feedback through our thoughts and feelings honesty book for those who prefer complete anonymity.
Gathering data in this way has allowed us to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. You can read more on these findings in our 2020/21 Annual Report here.