Leading charities slam Scots Government homelessness inaction

A spate of deaths among rough sleeping Scots has been branded a "badge of shame" by leading housing and poverty charities.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart is being urged to act on homelessness. Picture: John Devlin
Housing minister Kevin Stewart is being urged to act on homelessness. Picture: John Devlin

The absence of "political leadership" in tackling Scotland's homelessness crisis has been slammed by a coalition of third sector bodies who are demanding a new national strategy to tackle the problem.

It follows the discovery of the dead body of a man in Glasgow city centre last month who was thought to have frozen to death, while rough sleeping.

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The groups, including Shelter Scotland, the SCVO, Church of Scotland and the Poverty Alliance have signed a joint-letter to housing minister Kevin Stewart warning that the most recent tragedy "will not be the last."

The letter states: "It is a badge of shame that homelessness still exists in our society.

"We the undersigned are profoundly concerned by the current lack of political leadership and urgency in relation to tackling homelessness in Scotland today. We are calling for a new National Homelessness Strategy to tackle this complex problem head on.

"Without decisive action, we are endangering the lives of a growing number of people forced to sleep rough on the streets of our towns and cities and condemning many more individuals and families to a life in limbo, by forcing them to stay for increasing lengths of time in so called temporary accommodation."

Scottish Government ministers have previously hailed the country's "world leading" homelessness legislation passed in 2012, which was supposed made it illegal for anyone to be left homeless.

But more than 17,000 Scots appealed to the authorities for help between April and September last year after finding themselves homeless - and only 10,000 got sorted out with an "outcome."

The letter warns that the ambitions in tackling homelessness are now being undermined and Scotland risks falling behind England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It adds: "Key public policy priorities such as closing the education attainment gap, improving health outcomes, eradicating child poverty and reducing re-offending are being undermined by the failure to grasp the significance of preventing and tackling homelessness."