Homeless Scotland 1st Dec 2016

Christmas Day, and a huge number of us will wake up in a warm home, anticipating a day of food, drink and fun filled festivities. However let’s spare a thought for those who are homeless; a growing tragedy in Scotland, and shameful for one of the world’s richest countries.

The Scottish Government Homelessness in Scotland: Annual Update 2015/2016 has revealed there were 34,662 homeless applications made between April 2015 – 2016. A further 65,000 households asked their local authority for help with their housing. Within this number are over 5000 children living in temporary accommodation. And outwith this are the hidden homeless who are sleeping rough, or if they are lucky, on a friend’s sofa.

Whilst the above number is a slight decrease of 4% on the previous year, Shelter Scotland, the housing and homelessness charity has called Scotland’s current level of homelessness a “national badge of shame”, and has accused both local and national government of not doing enough in recent years to address and prevent the issue.

Shelter Scotland has recently launched a campaign Homelessness: Far From Fixed, which makes the following demands of local and national government:

• A safe and affordable home for everyone
• Help available for everyone to keep or find a home
• A strong safety net to catch people if they lose their home
• That no-one should ever have to sleep rough on our streets

This campaign urges all of us, and our politicians, to sign up to its demands of government at both local and national level. Recent research by Shelter reveals that 75% of people in Scotland see homelessness as being a problem, and 54% agree the Scottish Government should do more to help.

There are many reasons for becoming homeless, especially in our current economic climate, where unemployment and debts can spiral. However 29% of all applications were as a result of relationship breakdowns, and 36% as a result of being asked to leave. There are a growing number of homeless people with complex needs which are not being supported.

Within the figures, we also need to consider the chronic housing crisis reflective of the demand/supply imbalance within Scotland. Demand for rental properties is still on the rise and not enough homes are being built – approximately 30,000 new builds a year are needed (last year only 16,270 properties were built in Scotland). More affordable homes need to be built to house the 150,000 families on council waiting lists but it is unlikely any of this will happen anytime soon. As a result, more and more people are being pushed into the Private Rented Sector, which is unaffordable for many.

Shelter’s Graeme Brown states, “Homelessness can happen to anyone. People become homeless through chance not choice. Our new “Far From Fixed” campaign aims to highlight that we still have a long way to go to end homelessness. We know that we have the policy leavers and powers in Scotland to build on our strong progress to date and make this happen, but do we have the political will? If we don’t then we are concerned that other policy priorities such as improving health, wellbeing and educational attainment will ultimately be undone if we cannot ensure that people have a home to live in. It is only by being bold and actually living up to our rhetoric and ambition of being a progressive and socially just nation that we can start to finally fix homelessness in Scotland.”

The continued impact of welfare reform within the UK threatens efforts to prevent homelessness, with housing benefit no longer being linked to local rents and restrictions and caps on support affecting many (Crisis, 2016). However tenants within the PRS do stand to benefit from increased security in the sector with the forthcoming changes in the Private Housing Tenancies Bill.

The Key Place has links with our local authority homeless teams and is able to take tenants depending on circumstance and landlord approval.

While tucking into your turkey or nut roast on 25th December, bear in mind how lucky you are. Your home is much more than just a living space. It gives you your sense of identity and connects you to society. Homelessness is isolating and destructive, leaving people feeling vulnerable and socially excluded. Scotland needs to do more to help people who find themselves homeless.

Further advice and information can be found by searching:

http://scotland.shelter.org.uk

http://www.crisis.org.uk/pages/crisis-in-scotland.html

For those of you with twitter – for every person who tweets #TweetForShelter until December 4th, British Gas will donate £1 to Shelter - with the aim of raising £25,000.