Published 28/06/2023

Edinburgh-based charity Cyrenians was founded in 1968 by a group of students to implement creative solutions to ending homelessness and to explore ways of changing the public perception of those who experience homelessness.

Cyrenians take a public health approach to tackling the causes and consequences of homelessness and currently run around 60 projects and services in Central and South-East Scotland including supported accommodation; family mediation; food redistribution; and employability support.

Its services benefit over 7,000 children, young people, families, and individuals across Scotland each year. It also employs around 200 staff and is supported by over 450 volunteers.

We spoke with Laura van der Hoeven, Senior Relationships Manager at Cyrenians, to discuss the work of the charity and how organisations bringing their events to Scotland can support the country's local communities.

You have several businesses operating as part of the charity, can you tell us about them?

Cyrenians operates several social enterprises all of which contribute to our mission to support people excluded from family, home, work, or their local community. They are sustainable businesses that tackle waste and promote circular economies and all the money they raise supports our ongoing work.

Cyrenians Farm, based in West Lothian, is a working farm covering eight acres. It's also home to our outdoor education programme and one of our thriving residential communities. From our heritage orchard, comprising 250 fruit trees and more than 25 varieties of apple, to our plant nursery and market garden, we grow a range of vegetables, fruits, and herbs to Soil Association Organic standards. Over the past year we produced four tonnes of fruit, vegetables, and other produce - enough for over 9,000 meals.

Another of our venues is Arnotdale House, situated in the beautiful grounds of Falkirk's Dollar Park, which offers a family friendly café and boutique charity shop. Over the past year we have welcomed over 10,000 visitors and the café provided more than 1,000 free hot drinks and meals through our "Pay it Forward" community support scheme.

In Leith, our Fareshare Depot is a thriving surplus food hub connecting local community to good quality food that otherwise would have been sent to landfill.

Every month we divert over 99 tonnes of food from landfill allowing us to distribute 234,000 meals worth of food, which supports over 20,000 families and individuals in  need through our community food network. Food waste accounts for 8 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and our enterprise saves 415 tonnes of CO2 every month.

Cyrenians volunteers

Cyrenians volunteers © Cyrenians

We also offer regular dining and workshop events in Edinburgh and West Lothian, which are available to book via our website.

CSR is becoming more important to clients when planning business events, can you tell us about the options that are available to support Cyrenians?

For companies looking to support Cyrenians, we have lots of opportunities for groups to visit us and find out more. We regularly host corporate volunteering groups at our Fareshare Depot in Leith and at our Farm in West Lothian. We are always keen to talk to groups who may want to include a volunteering experience with us as part of their business event programmes.

At our Fareshare Depot teams can get involved with picking, packing, and delivering orders to the locally community and to help us ensure that nobody goes hungry. It's a great opportunity to see our work first-hand.

And at our Farm, volunteer groups can get stuck into planting, weeding, and harvesting our crops, while learning more about the work we do. The Farm can also offer bespoke bushcraft and skills workshops for groups.

We would suggest a donation for both volunteering opportunities, which will allow us to facilitate larger group volunteering in the future and also support our wider work tackling homelessness. For companies which can't physically support communities whilst attending events, we are always grateful for financial support from businesses to enable our work.

Can you tell us of any inspiring volunteering stories from corporate companies that have supported the charity?

Last year hundreds of people took part in corporate volunteering experiences with Cyrenians and every single one represents an amazing connection between businesses in our community and our work to tackle the causes and consequences of homeless.

Businesses engage with us in different ways and its wonderful when corporate volunteering can be part of a longer-term partnership. For example, housing construction company Taylor Wimpey sponsor our Fareshare vans and have sent several staff teams to help pick, pack, and deliver orders.

Restaurant chain Fazenda, which has a site in George Street, Edinburgh, have sent volunteering teams to our Farm several times. They have also created an exclusive cocktail for the Edinburgh restaurant which uses our produce and for every one sold we receive a proportion of the profits.

Getting in front of clients to tell them of the importance of social sustainability can be difficult, you recently partnered with VisitScotland for a tradeshow in Leeds, can you tell us how that benefited the charity?

We have lots of amazing partnerships with businesses based in the communities where we work in Edinburgh, Falkirk, and the Lothians. But we do not get a lot of opportunities to make contact with businesses who visit these areas for events so being able to attend CHS Leeds with VisitScotland Business Events was the perfect chance to connect with some of these organisations. I'm looking forward to seeing how we can work together with these businesses going forward.

To find out more about Cyrenians visit -