Edinburgh Cyrenians chief executive Des Ryan dies aged 55

Charity says that Ryan led it to significant growth over the past 25 years and was a 'hero and inspiration' to many people in the sector

Des Ryan
Des Ryan

Des Ryan, chief executive of the Edinburgh Cyrenians charity for almost 25 years, has died after a short illness.

Ryan, 55, first worked with homeless people as a volunteer at a day centre in London in 1976. He set up a homelessness project in 1982 and joined Leeds Cyrenians soon after. In 1988 he was appointed chief executive of Edinburgh Cyrenians, which works with marginalised people, including those affected by homelessness, poverty, long-standing unemployment or addiction.

The charity said in a statement that it grew significantly under Ryan’s leadership.

As a member of the Beattie Commission, he also influenced Scottish government policy on the importance of employment training when supporting vulnerable people. Ryan believed that a meaningful occupation could provide a route out of homelessness, the statement said.

He led Cyrenians when it began looking at social enterprise in 2002 as a way of delivering its mission, and when it set up Scotland’s first waste collection and recycling service using this model. In 2011 it sold its organic recycling enterprise to the FTSE 250 company MITIE.

Ryan also brokered a partnership for the charity with Standard Life 20 years ago that is still running.

"An unassuming and courteous man, he was a hero and inspiration to many across the voluntary, private and public sectors for his absolute integrity, dogged pursuit of social justice and consistent respect for each and every individual he encountered," the statement said.

He is survived by his wife Anna, whom he met at the day centre in London, and his children Sadie, Tom, Martha and Paddy.

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