US adviser hails Scots way to help homeless

Scotland’s “groundbreaking” commitment to ending homelessness is a model for other countries on how the problem can be tackled, a White House adviser said today.

However, Dr Dennis Culhane said the success of Scotland’s 2012 commitment could only be measured by the number of people given not just the legal right to a home, but a “real chance” to live in one.

Dr Culhane, who has advised United States President Barack Obama and his predecessor, George W Bush, is a key speaker at a conference in Edinburgh next month.

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The event is taking place as the deadline approaches for councils to meet the commitment, enshrined in legislation, to end homelessness by the end of 2012.

Speaking ahead of the conference, which is being organised by the housing and homeless charity Shelter Scotland, Dr Culhane said: “Scotland’s groundbreaking commitment to end homelessness is serving as a model for how many other countries view homelessness solutions.

“In some ways, Scotland and the United States share a similar vision in eradicating homelessness, reflected in the move to prevention, rather than cure.”

Dr Culhane, a professor of social policy at the University of Pennsylvania, is expected to compare homelessness services in Europe and America, as well as speaking about a recent policy shift in the US, which sees homeless people given permanent housing at subsidised rents.

Legislation passed by Holyrood in 2003 will bring an end to the current system in Scotland where only those homeless people classed as being in “priority need” have the right to a home.

That means that by the end of 2012 this right will be extended to single homeless people and couples without children.

The conference will also hear from housing minister Keith Brown.