Common Ground Against Homelessness: offering homes for life

“There’s a revolving door of homelessness. People move into temporary accommodation, get kicked out because of their behaviour or addictions and end up back on the streets. We want to offer people long-term stability and support.”

Social Problem

The rising cost of housing, a lack of suitable properties, job loss, mental health issues, addiction, a relationship breakdown… There are many reasons why people become homeless. Once someone is forced to live on the streets, they can end up locked in a cycle of homelessness that is very difficult to break out of. Hostels and temporary housing schemes don’t offer the stability that people need and aren’t always equipped to address the myriad of challenges that homeless people face.


Common Ground Against Homelessness was founded to provide homes for life in Edinburgh. The idea behind the charity is simple – residents will have a secure tenancy for a high-quality home, which is theirs for as long as they want it. The property will be managed by a local charity – Rowan Alba. Tenants will receive three healthy meals a day and a trained support worker will be on-hand 24/7.


Common Ground Against Homelessness raised £710,000 through a community share offer. That was enough to buy a four-bed property, called Peffermill, and carry out basic renovation work, but the charity wanted to make more extensive changes to the building. Its aim is to create nine self-contained studio flats within the property. It needed a loan, but as a startup with a unique proposition it was struggling to find a high-street bank willing to lend it the money. Other social investors were interested but could only offer a high rate of interest. Thankfully, Charity Bank was prepared to lend Common Ground Against Homelessness £500,000, at an affordable rate.

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Peffermill property

“Charity Bank recognises the social impact of what we’re doing and they've moved mountains to make it happen. Everyone was exceptionally helpful and patient, and they went out of their way to make the application process as easy as possible. Common Ground is this scruffy little start-up punching above its weight and we've had first class service from Charity Bank.”

Helen Carlin, Founder of Common Ground Against Homelessness


Building work started at Peffermill in January 2022 and tenants are due to move in by the end of July. There are already 54 homeless people on the local council’s waiting list that require the type of support and accommodation that Rowan Alba offer. The charity has a strong history of helping former homeless people to rebuild their lives. By offering a permanent home and round-the-clock support, it has helped people to tackle drug addiction, alcohol abuse and mental health issues. Research shows that every £1 spent supporting tenants saves the public purse at least £3.[1] Soon, nine more people will be benefiting from the stability and support offered by a permanent home. And Common Ground Against Homelessness is already planning its next housing project.


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Gerry Macfarlane has had his own place at Thorntree Street, Rowan Alba’s first homes for life project, for over four years and he says it has saved his life.

“I was in my late 60s and still on the streets, if it hadn’t been for this place, I don’t think I would be here – I don’t think I could have taken much more. I have now got a place to stay and some stability. I have somewhere to call home and my own key. Thorntree has changed everything for me. It was certainly worth the wait, but it has changed my life.”

Gerry Macfarlane, Thorntree Street tenant

About Charity Bank

Charity Bank is the loans and savings bank owned by and committed to supporting the social sector. Since 2002, we have used our savers’ money to make more than 1,100 loans totalling over £350m to housing, education, social care, community and other social purpose organisations.

Find out more about us here.

Nothing in this article constitutes an invitation to engage in investment activity nor is it advice or a recommendation and professional advice should be taken before any course of action is pursued.