Covid crisis has shown that Scotland can end homelessness and rough-sleeping in two years – Miles Briggs MSP

The Scottish Parliament elections, at the beginning of this month, already feel like a long time ago.

Homelessness is not a straightforward problem to fix and it will require everyone working together (Picture: John Devlin)

I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who voted for me and the Scottish Conservatives, so that I can continue to represent you to the best of my ability at Holyrood.

Last week I was appointed the Scottish Conservatives’ social justice, housing and local government spokesperson. I’m eager to get stuck into my new brief and, for me, the number one priority in this portfolio is trying to end homelessness and rough-sleeping.

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Each of the Scottish parties has committed to ending homelessness over this parliament, by 2026. I think we need to be even more ambitious and aim to end homelessness in Scotland by 2023.

The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated that when people work together across government and local authorities they can make things happen. I firmly believe that people in Scotland want their elected representatives to work together to get the best possible outcomes for people and that’s what I plan on doing.

The ending of homelessness is by no means a straightforward problem to fix and it will require everyone working together. Over the last 15 months, homelessness was effectively ended with emergency provisions made during the pandemic.

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This has shown that ending homelessness is not an impossible task and if MSPs make this a priority over the next couple of years, it can be achieved.

Across Scotland, but Edinburgh in particular, there is a real issue with the number of children who are in temporary accommodation.

Before the pandemic the number of children in the capital who were in temporary accommodation had risen from 1,095 in 2018 to 1,260 in 2019.

A permanent home is crucial for a young person’s development and the instability of moving between temporary accommodation puts children at a disadvantage. There are too many families who are being forced to move between hostels and B&Bs, which must be resolved as a part of a new drive to provide safe and stable homes.

In the mission to end homelessness, we are not starting from scratch. There are a number of excellent initiatives that put a roof over people’s heads and helped them get back on their feet.

Charities such as Shelter Scotland do exceptional work to prevent homelessness and support people who are homeless. The well-known Edinburgh-based charity Social Bite has a number of innovative projects, such as their Social Bite village to support people becoming independent.

There are a number of smaller charities, who support people with specific needs, such as Rowan Alba, who provide homes for people with alcohol-related brain damage.

If we all work together to find long-term solutions and build on the ingenious ideas to end homelessness, that people are already implementing, then we can achieve our goal.

The Housing First concept, being trialled in Scotland, could significantly improves thousands of lives across the country. Ultimately we will need to build a lot more affordable homes than we have been so far, so that everyone can have a safe, secure and affordable home.

Ending homelessness is a complex and challenging issue, but I will focus my energies on solutions and getting good outcomes for people in Edinburgh and across Scotland.

Miles Briggs is a Scottish Conservative MSP for Lothian

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