Putting an end to homelessness is vital to create a fairer Scotland where everyone feels valued within their communities and wider society, writes Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government.
To me, home is more than just bricks and mortar. As well as being a physical space where I can relax and spend time with family, it gives me a sense of security and belonging which I always carry with me. In this job, I spend a lot of time away from home, and knowing I have that place to come back to gives me stability and an important point of connection.
That’s exactly why I feel so strongly that everyone in Scotland deserves a place to call home, as an essential foundation to their own wellbeing. Recognising this for ourselves means we must also recognise it for all citizens including, and perhaps most especially, those people who are most vulnerable in our society. It is often those who are experiencing poverty, job loss, mental health challenges and addictions who are most at risk of homelessness.
As set out in our Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan, we want to set an example in Scotland by making sure that no-one should ever find themselves without a roof over their head.
Housing First is unique and important because it recognises a permanent home as the best stable platform to address needs and build a life. Those who most need support to avoid or leave homelessness will receive settled accommodation as a priority, with the right support to ensure they can keep their home. This allows them to fully integrate into communities, breaking the cycle of repeat homelessness and temporary accommodation which often aggravates the conditions of people with multiple and complex needs.
Housing First puts people at its heart – it recognises that we are all on our own unique journeys and homelessness, when it happens, is only one part of that person’s journey.
The Housing First placements so far are already a testament to the success of the programme. The real transformation to people’s lives is undeniable, and we want to celebrate this while recognising that we still have a way to go.
I recently heard of a young person who was referred to the Rock Trust’s Housing First for Youth scheme in West Lothian in 2017. As a young person with care-experience and mental health issues, she was a priority for this kind of support, which sees young people move into a permanent home, with round-the-clock personalised support by a dedicated Rock Trust support worker, with the aim of ensuring they never become homeless again.
This young woman moved into her own tenancy at the end of 2017. The first thing her support worker did with her was help her to pick out the furniture she wanted for her new home, helping her to feel comfortable and empowered that this space was hers, that no one was going to take it away.
As well as her new home, she now has daily support, both practical and emotional, from her support worker, and is making plans to go to college. She can still struggle with her family relationships and mental health, but she finally feels comfortable asking for help.
Ending homelessness is crucial in our journey towards a fairer Scotland where all people feel welcomed, involved and valued within their communities and wider society. I firmly believe that the Housing First programme will play an essential role in helping us to achieve this vision.