A growing number of children were among the 43,000 Scots classed as homeless last year as authorities faced the first rise in applications for assistance with somewhere to stay in almost a decade, new research shows.
The increase means one Scot is now losing their home the equivalent of every 18 minutes. The situation has been branded “devastating” by opposition parties after Scotland passed flagship laws a decade ago aimed at eradicating the problem.
Rising living costs, harsh welfare cuts and growing poverty levels are among the reasons behind the problem, with pressure piling up on already vulnerable households.
The Scottish Government says £5 million has been allocated to “transform” the homelessness system, but is facing calls to build more affordable housing.
A new study for Shelter Scotland today found the number of people registered as homeless in Britain rose for the third year running to nearly 320,000. In Scotland, the number of households that applied as “homeless” rose 1 per cent last year (2017/18), to 34,972. This was the first rise since 2008/09.
Although the number of people in households classed as homeless fell from 44,794 to 43,074, the number of children increased by 93.
Alison Watson, deputy director of Shelter Scotland, said: “It’s unforgivable that almost 320,000 people in Britain have been swept up by the housing crisis and now have no place to call home. Around 43,000 people were made homeless in Scotland last year.
“Due to a perfect storm of spiralling rents, very harsh welfare cuts and a major lack of social housing, record numbers of people are sleeping out on the streets, stuck in poor quality accommodation or in a cramped hostel room.”
The number of children living in temporary accommodation in Scotland, which can include hotels and B&Bs, has also increased for the fourth year running to 6,615.
Shelter Scotland has now launched an urgent appeal calling on the public to support its frontline advisers who help the growing number of people trying to find or keep a home.
Last year, 21,290 people came to the charity in Scotland for help – more than ever before.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are determined to bring an end to homelessness and rough sleeping in Scotland.
“While temporary accommodation provides an important safety net in emergency situations, we want the time anyone has to spend there to be as short as possible.
“That is why are working to transform the homelessness system, so that people can secure a permanent home far more quickly.”
The increase in homeless applications has only been among certain groups such as single parents and single people. For others, such as couples, applications have continued to decline.
Labour housing spokeswoman Pauline McNeill said: “The Scottish Parliament introduced world-leading legislation on homelessness, but under this government’s watch homelessness applications and rough sleeping have increased.
“People are falling through the cracks because of brutal cuts to social security and local government. This cannot go on.”
Repeat homelessness cases account for 6.4 per cent of all assessments, part of an increasing trend since 2009/10.