Edinburgh has most rough sleepers in Scotland

Nine per cent of homeless applications said they slept rough the night before. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Nine per cent of homeless applications said they slept rough the night before. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A SNAPSHOT survey has ­suggested Edinburgh is now the rough-sleeping capital of Scotland.

New Scottish Government statistics – based on interviews with homeless people – put the number of rough sleepers in the city on one night at 363.

And today homelessness workers said it was “not good enough” so many people in the Capital were having to ­survive without a roof over their head.

The statistics showed how many people reported sleeping rough the night before applying to the council as homeless last year – nine per cent of all applications and more than anywhere else in Scotland.

The figures also show the number of people being housed in temporary ­accommodation rose 12 per cent last year.

Figures show on March 31 there were 840 households, including 238 with children, in temporary accommodation, compared with 752 on the same date last year. Claire Gibson, chief executive of Streetwork, which works with homeless people, said the two depressing sets of statistics were linked.

She said: “We run a 24-hour crisis service and our experience is there is a real bottleneck and a lot of people are in temporary accommodation because there is no suitable permanent housing for them to move on to. It’s like a chain.

“Those who should be living in a local community are in ­temporary accommodation and those not in temporary accommodation are on the streets for longer.

“And the longer someone is on the streets the more complex their needs become and the more difficult it is to help them off the streets.”

Ms Gibson said the government figure of 363 was roughly in line with the number of rough-sleepers Streetwork had recorded, but she said it did not necessarily reflect the full scale of the problem.

She said: “Whether the real figure is bigger or smaller, it’s still not good enough for a capital city that this number of people are sleeping rough.”

The total number of homeless people in Edinburgh fell last year – but only by four per cent, compared with a 13 per cent drop in Scotland as a whole. The city’s homeless total of 4267 was the lowest since 2001/02 and well below the peak of 5485 recorded in 2003/04.

Shelter Scotland said the fall in homeless applications was encouraging, but warned against complacency and voiced concern that against a background of austerity and welfare reform, some people could be slipping through the housing safety net.

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “As the number of homeowners 
making homelessness applications due to defaulting on their mortgages rises, it is more important than ever that they can access advice and support.”

Edinburgh housing leader Councillor Cammy Day said: “I am very pleased to see an overall decrease in the levels of homelessness in Edinburgh but it is clear that we still have many challenges ahead. We have an acute shortage of affordable housing in the city and this has added increasing pressure on services such as temporary accommodation.

“We will continue to invest in creating affordable housing and focusing on preventing people from becoming ­homeless, by identifying those at risk.”