Homelessness charity warns of 'national housing emergency'

A protest against so-called 'slum' hostel accommodation in Edinburgh. The number of Scots living in hostels while classed as homeless has rocketed. Picture: Jon Savage
A protest against so-called 'slum' hostel accommodation in Edinburgh. The number of Scots living in hostels while classed as homeless has rocketed. Picture: Jon Savage
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A homelessness charity has warned of a national housing emergency as it revealed that record numbers of people sought help from them last year.

Shelter Scotland said that a total of 21,290 people sought assistance from it housing advice and support services last year, demonstrating the scale of housing problems north of the border

Almost half of those forced to seek help were young people aged between 16 and 34, according to the charity's Annual Impact Report 2017/18, while people living in private rented accommodation made up more than a third of the total - even though only 15 per cent of people overall live in privately rented homes.

The main reason people gave for needing help was “keeping their home”, ie struggling to afford their housing costs or facing eviction - with 46 per cent of all those who contacted the charity naming this as a problem. A further 32 per cent of people who came to Shelter Scotland last year wanted help to ‘find a home’ - including advice and assistance with homelessness. Of those seeking help, 58 per cent were female and 42 per cent male.

The charity said that on average, a household in Scotland becomes homeless every 18 minutes, while the number of children without a home is at a 10-year high.

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Last year we had to help more people than ever before, which is why, in our 50th anniversary year, we’re not celebrating. We thought that by now bad housing and homelessness would be largely a thing of the past, but instead, as this report clearly shows, our services are needed more than ever.

“The report shows once again the disproportionate impact of Scotland’s housing crisis on young people and private renters who are both over-represented in the number of people we helped.

He added: “An acute shortage of truly affordable homes, harsh welfare reforms, stagnant wages and the high cost of keeping a roof over their head are the main reasons driving people to ask for help.

“Struggling to afford or pay housing costs is the biggest presenting problem people have when coming to us for help.”

Shelter said clients were helped via its free national helpdesk, digital chat service and one-to-one advice sessions. There were also 894,025 visits by people in Scotland to its online advice pages.

A separate report published earlier this year by Shelter Scotland found that the equivalent of 38 children a day were left without somewhere permanent to live last year, while a separate report commissioned by Edinburgh-based social enterprise Social Bite for the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group the number of homeless households living in hostels has increased by 43 per cent since 2010.