Dundee’s most vulnerable people are being given vital support through a service usually targeted at late night revellers.
It is feared lockdown has caused people who already struggle finding help to retreat further, sparking an urgent change in how support is given to homeless people and those with drug and alcohol addictions.
Tayside Council on Alcohol has been working with Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership and other groups to bring help into the communities.
The Safe Zone bus, usually seen in the city centre helping people as they spill out of bars, has been diverted to Lochee during lockdown.
The first aid room on the vehicle is being used when needed and the bus is staffed with a community nurse but Kathryn Baker, chief executive of Tayside Council on Alcohol (TCA) said the help offered is going further.
“The folk we are targeting are people who suffer the most from health inequalities and more broadly in society.
“Their mental and physical health tends to be poorer because of poverty, poor housing and the lifestyle they lead and have been brought up in.
“These people are often described as hard to engage with but the reality is the services are not always given in the right way. There is a real need to go to where people are and say ‘we are here.’
“It gives a real message that these people matter to us. We want to break down the barriers to vulnerable people accessing vital services.”
The bus is parked in Lochee on Saturday nights offering hot drinks, food, first aid and advice about drug and alcohol support, benefits and housing.
Kathryn said: “It became really apparent there were groups of people who do not access the services that may help them – street beggars who relied on money from people who aren’t walking around anymore, our homeless population which the council has been working to find accommodation for.
“That kind of group of people, as well as people involved in prostitution, do not typically come forward for our services.
“There’s an element of people not even having the confidence to ask for help if their mental health is poor.
“If we are in the locality and people can walk past and see us and know we are there to support them, it really helps.”
The new service has worked so well it is hoped it can expand into other parts of Dundee and continue when pubs reopen.
Kathryn said: “There no reason we can’t do both in future, it will be dependent on need.
“The crisis has had some unintended outcomes to challenge us to think differently about how we do everything, including how we support the most vulnerable members of our community. There is absolutely a commitment to continuing that.”