Bots and Breakthroughs

By Stephen Kernaghan- Project Worker for East Lothian Conflict Resolution Services


As someone who works with conflict every day, some days are better than others. There are days when that breakthrough happens – a teen is listened to by their parent, or a young person sees something from Dad’s point of view. And, sometimes there are days when the conflict doesn’t get any better. There are still days when young people lose their homes.

Finding it difficult to communicate with kindness and a listening ear is bloody hard. It’s hard with our parents who seem to call at the wrong time. It’s hard with that colleague who asks too much of you. It’s hard with your mate whose joke is way over the line. It takes patience. It also makes us feel vulnerable – it can be a hugely personal thing to do.

It’s hard to talk about what happens when things go wrong for the same reason. It makes us all too raw (or is that just me?)

Ask Alex

That’s part of the reason Cyrenians created Alex, a Facebook messenger bot who answers your questions about homelessness in modern Scotland. He’s 20, born and raised in Edinburgh and dreams of travelling Europe. Alex tells a story based on real peoples’ experiences. This might sound weird but I like Alex, if he were real, I could see us being mates.

I’m not surprised by Alex’s back story though, it’s familiar, real and sometimes preventable.

Homelessness is Hidden

Finding yourself without a roof over your head might be the stuff of nightmares for some people, but for a growing proportion of people, it’s the reality. Rough sleepers are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to homeless in Scotland. There are tonnes more people who stay in B and Bs, on their mate’s floor or end up back with family (if they even have that option).

The single biggest cause of homelessness in Scotland is relationship breakdown. It’s a huge, heart-breaking stat that hasn’t changed much in recent years. SCCR’s recent research shows that 45% of young people and 75% of parents experience conflict on a weekly basis. A huge 18% of young people think about leaving home at least on a monthly basis.

So why not try Asking Alex? He might surprise you too…

Stephen Kernaghan

Stephen Kernaghan- Project Worker for East Lothian Conflict Resolution Services

Stephen has worked with Cyrenians since 2012 and has been Project Assistant for Amber Conflict Resolution Service for 2 years. When he isn’t working with young people or driving across the Lothians in his Fiat eating danish pastries, Stephen plays basketball and spends time in his artist studio. He’s currently training for a triathlon (which he regrets signing up for).

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