Homelessness having 'devastating impact' on rising numbers of people in Scotland

Homelessness continues to rise across Scotland. Picture: John Devlin
Homelessness continues to rise across Scotland. Picture: John Devlin
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The number of people in Scotland presenting themselves as homeless has reached 100 a day, official figures have revealed, with more Scots now living in temporary accommodation due to "a chronic shortage" of affordable homes.

Local authorities north of the Border received more than 36,000 homeless applications in 2018/19, a rise of three per cent in 12 months, and the second year in a row the number has risen.

The number of applicants who experienced rough sleeping at least once during the last three months also increased by eight per cent to 2,876.

There were 10,989 households in temporary accommodation as of March 31 this year, an increase of 56, with 3,315 of those households including children or a pregnant woman.

Charities are now calling on the Scottish Government to speed up efforts to stop people becoming homeless and to radically address the shortage of affordable accommodation in the country.

"These statistics expose the devastating impact Scotland’s housing emergency is having on people’s lives," said Gordon MacRae of Shelter Scotland.

"This is the human cost of our collective failure to build the homes we need. On an industrial scale, thousands of men, women and children are being denied their most basic right to a safe home."

The Scottish Government said it was unacceptable for anyone to find themselves without a home. Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: "Our Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan sets out a range of measures that support our ambition to eradicate rough sleeping, transform temporary accommodation and end homelessness altogether.

“We are tackling this challenge in the context of the UK Government’s welfare cuts which we know are causing major hardship and housing insecurity for many people – a growing number of studies show these cuts are causing homelessness."

Since 2012, every unintentionally homeless person in Scotland has had the right to a home. But charities said that due to a chronic shortage of suitable homes for social rent, thousands were still becoming trapped in unsuitable temporary accommodation – often for years at a time.

Mr MacRae continued: “For the fifth year in a row the number of homeless children living in temporary accommodation has risen – up 3% to 6,795. People are having to stay longer in temporary accommodation with their lives in limbo.

“And on 3,535 occasions people were denied their legal right to emergency housing by local authorities – being turned away to sleep rough, sofa surf or return to dangerous situations.

“The question every citizen of Scotland must ask ourselves is how much longer are we prepared to tolerate this.”

The Scottish Government said local authorities had a statutory duty to provide temporary accommodation and that it was concerned the data suggested that this was not always happening.

Mr Stewart added: "The data highlights a particular issue in Glasgow and I have agreed with Glasgow City Council that a voluntary review would be led by the Scottish Government in partnership with the Council to tackle this issue.

“It is disappointing that there have been a significant number of breaches of the unsuitable accommodation order in some areas. Although there has been some improvement in the second half of the reporting year, I am clear that any breach is unacceptable and I expect those local authorities to continue to make improvements and minimise the use of unsuitable temporary accommodation like B&Bs."

Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman said the rising homelessness figures showed Holyrood ministers were being “timid” on housing.

“It is simply unacceptable that households with children living in temporary accommodation has risen yet again,” he said.

“Temporary arrangements can often be inappropriate and can affect the health and wellbeing of children and families, particularly in Edinburgh and Glasgow where we have the highest instances.

“In these cities, the number of people being refused temporary accommodation has increased by 10 per cent in the last year, and of these figures 95 per cent of refusals were in Glasgow. That is frankly unacceptable and Scottish Government must do more to support local authorities to address this.

“The Scottish Government’s steady-as-we-go approach simply does not work. We must remind Ministers that behind these latest homelessness statistics are real people’s lives in need of help.”