Courtney and Richie walking together

RECONCILED AND CHANGING LIVES IN EDINBURGH

Meet Richie and Courtney – the unstoppable father daughter duo from Steps To Hope.

Steps to Hope

Courtney and Ritchie smiling in their food truck.

Seventeen-year-old Courtney and her dad Richie have faced a lot of challenges. After battling addiction and homelessness, Richie completely turned his life around and founded Steps To Hope, a not-for-profit organisation that supports people who have addictions and are homeless in Edinburgh. It's gone from strength to strength. During the pandemic, they've continued to provide hot meals from their food truck, and safe, secure places to live. Courtney is a big part of Steps To Hope, and she and Richie are very close now. But years before, Courtney had to make the painful decision to break contact with her dad.

A CHRISTMAS THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING

Courtney smiling outside

“After my dad relapsed when I was 10 years old,” explains Courtney. “I had to cut him out of my life until he got himself better because it was really damaging to our family.

“But one Christmas my dad asked if I wanted to go out and help the homeless on Christmas day. We took hats and gloves to homeless people and we kept doing that every year and eventually my dad said he wanted to make a registered charity. We went out with 40 Santa bags and filled it and handed it out with a bigger group of people and, when we were trying to work out a name, I named it “Steps To Hope” because of the 12 steps people go through to recover."

"A CHANGE WITHIN ME"

Ritchie and his food truck.

“I had a dysfunctional upbringing, let’s say.

"I was nervous all the time as a young boy at school, I had a lot of anxiety and insecurities...”

Then an older person gave Richie drugs: “All my fears, insecurities, anxieties, completely disappeared and it just changed the way I felt about myself.

“Things progressed quickly, and I lost everything.

“But fast forward several years… I came through a 12-step treatment centre… And as I went through this process, I had to make amends to everyone.

“It was me trying to give back to society, trying to make amends for being a toe rag, trying to give back… trying to be a role model to my children, trying to be the person I’ve always wanted to be. And that’s how Steps To Hope was born.

“As the days went on, there was a change – not just getting sobriety time under my belt, but there was a change within me. I was serious and [Courtney] watched the growth and the change, and before long she just jumped in beside me with two feet and she said she believed in absolutely everything I’m doing – and I am coming to do it with you.

“She comes out onto the streets with me and fed and clothed the homeless, she named the charity… she actually joined the board of Steps To Hope and became a trustee, at 16 years old, which is absolutely incredible!”

WHY IT WORKS

Courtney and Ritchie working

The staff and volunteers at Steps To Hope understand addiction and homelessness, and what people need to build a new way of life. As Richie explains…

“We’re able to take [people] off the streets and put them in a safe and secure environment, support them and integrate them within this massive community of recovery they had never heard of.

“Comic Relief money has got people sober and we honestly believe that [just] housing them is not the answer, it has to be backed up by the support and lived experience from like-minded people. Put them both together, and you’ve now got a recipe for someone getting well.

“Of course, not everyone who is homeless is an addict. You’ve got other people who have never touched a drink or drug in their life, but they’re maybe fleeing from domestic abuse or have split up from their husband or wife, and find themselves homeless.

“It’s horrific, there’s a pandemic going on just there [in Scotland], let alone the Coronavirus. It breaks my heart... but watching the transition within someone, delivering that hope, and seeing them grab it with two hands and watching them get better is beautiful. It’s better than any substance I’ve had in my life.”

Courtney and Ritchie smiling outside against a brick wall.

Richie has plans to start providing food and accommodation in Glasgow this year. Meanwhile in Edinburgh Steps To Hope continues to grow: “We have secured a second leased 2-bedroom property and also a 5-bedroom leased guesthouse. The guest house is now a recovery centre and we now have a full-time recovery support worker managing the guesthouse. We have also purchased a minibus which allows us to take those we house out on trips and activities."

Steps To Hope is just one of countless small charities in the UK and around the world that are driven by caring, committed people like Richie and Courtney. And it’s one of many organisations that have received support through your donations to Comic Relief.

We support projects that work with refugees and people seeking asylum, people living in unsafe conditions in informal settlements, and people facing homelessness in the UK – where charities like Step To Hope help people access safe, secure housing and rebuild their lives.

A human right: a devastating cycle

Housing is a human right, and we should all have a home – one that feels safe and secure.

Without a safe place to call home, people are more likely to experience violence, and have a lower life expectancy. No-one should have to live with this level of (preventable) danger, uncertainty and fear.

It can be extremely hard for people without a permanent address to find a job. Yet, with little or no income, homeless people are unable to find a secure place to live. Being trapped in such a devastating cycle can severely affect people’s physical and mental health.

You can support organisations like Steps To Hope by donating to Comic Relief. Thank you.