ARK Housing Association was established in Edinburgh on 9th February 1977 by a small group of parishioners from Morningside Baptist Church led by Rev. Peter Bowes. These founders were responding to the need of one parishioner with learning difficulties, who wanted to live in a house with support, in the community.
Their stated aim was to ‘provide the best possible accommodation at the most economical cost, without creating surroundings which were institutional in either appearance or atmosphere’ with a target of providing 200 places within the first two years.
This was an expansive and significant vision in 1970’s Britain, when many people with learning difficulties were still being accommodated in large Victorian institutions, separated from the rest of society for indefinite periods of time.
This practical expression of the founding members’ passion for justice, equality and humanity has stayed at the core of what ARK does today. It pre-dated by 20 years the closure programme of large Scottish institutions such as Gogarburn and Lennox Castle, and created a momentum for families to consider an alternative - a momentum that has now travelled the length of Scotland’s east coast.
In current years, the tensions arising from policy expectations, personal aspirations and financial prioritising are played out in the costs versus quality debate. ARK’s vision however remains as it was in 1977: to add benefit to the lives of individuals and communities, and to safeguard the rights and aspirations of people who require care and support.