‘Shocking’ level of homelessness in Scotland, campaigners warn

The number of people requesting homelessness assistance in Scotland has risen. Picture: John Devlin
The number of people requesting homelessness assistance in Scotland has risen. Picture: John Devlin
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Homelessness in Scotland is getting worse with a growing number of children forced to live in temporary accommodation, a leading housing charity has warned.

Official statistics published today revealed the 32 local authorities north of the Border received a total of 34,972 applications for homelessness assistance between April 1, 2017 and March 31 2018, one per cent higher than the same period during 2016/17.

There were 10,933 households in temporary accommodation, an increase of 60 since last year. The number of children living in such circumstances increased by 557 to 6,615 - the fourth consecutive annual rise.

“These statistics are shocking and should start alarm bells ringing in Holyrood that homelessness in Scotland is getting worse not better,” said Graeme Brown, campaigns director with Shelter Scotland.

“Every 18 minutes a household was made homeless in Scotland last year. For the fourth year in a row the number of homeless children living in temporary accommodation has risen – up nine per cent. And people are having to stay longer in temporary accommodation with their lives in limbo.”

READ MORE: Insight: Scotland’s street sleeping crisis

A 2017 study carried out by researchers at Heriot-Watt University predicted that if economic policies continued unchanged, the number of rough sleepers could double from 800 to 1,500 in the next 25 years.

Earlier in the same year the Scottish Government set up a £50m fund and a dedicated action group aimed at eradicating homelessness.

But Mr Brown warned the latest statistics offered “clear evidence” that any progress made in tackling the issue was now being reversed.

“Housing and homelessness is blighting the lives of even more people in Scotland – robbing them of their health, security and a fair chance in life,” he added.

“We welcome the focus on homelessness in the last year from the Scottish Government but it is now time for urgent action from all areas of local and national government to work together better to tackle and prevent homelessness in Scotland. We need urgent action and resources now to start making a difference to all those facing or suffering homelessness.”

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “Everyone deserves a safe and warm place to call home which is why we are committed to ending homelessness and rough sleeping for good. While the long-term trend shows a decrease in the number of homeless applications – a reduction of 39 per cent between 2008/9 and 2017/18 – these figures are a reminder of why preventing homelessness and transforming temporary accommodation will remain a key priority for government.

“We want time spent in unsuitable temporary accommodation to be as short as possible, especially for households with children or where there is a pregnancy. This is why we introduced a cap of one week for families and pregnant women living in B&B accommodation. We also need temporary accommodation to be of a high standard, with good support, for everyone.

“Last year we formed a Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group to tackle this issue, as well as homelessness and rough sleeping more widely. The group recently set out a number of recommendations on how we can transform the use of temporary accommodation and we will be bringing forwards a programme of work to implement these recommendations, backed up by the £50 million Ending Homelessness Together Fund, to drive change and improvement.”

Scottish Labour said the figures underlined the SNP’s failures to tackle homelessness in Scotland.

The party’s housing spokeswoman Pauline McNeill MSP said: “These figures are truly shocking. Having just one person homeless in 21st century Scotland is unacceptable – but to see homelessness on the rise once again is a scandal.

“It is clear the SNP government simply is not taking Scotland’s homelessness crisis seriously and SNP ministers should be ashamed by these figures.

“The number of homelessness applications, people and families in temporary accommodation are all up under the SNP. That is unacceptable.”