A history of Shelter Scotland's impact

Over the last 50 years, Shelter Scotland has been at the heart of directing changes in legislation affecting homelessness and bad housing. On this page, you can browse a brief summary of some of the campaigns and achievements we've accomplished since starting in 1968.


The country wakes up to the housing crisis on its doorstep after a quarter of the British public watch Cathy Come Home, a film about a young family pulled apart by worsening housing. After months of planning, Shelter launches.

1966 history


Shelter Scotland is formed to deal with the unique challenges of homelessness and bad housing in Scotland.


Shelter Scotland opens its first housing aid centre, based in Edinburgh. Housing aid means that we can give one-to-one help to people who are homeless.



Shelter Scotland's campaigning helps to get the Homeless People Act implemented, which places duties on councils to assist homeless families.


Shelter launches The Rural Housing Initiative, which targets homes lying empty. The initiative helps set up a new breed of community-based rural housing associations, and poses a rural housing challenge for the fledgling government agency, Scottish Homes.

Craig, a service user at the Shelter Scotland Support Service in Dumfries & Galloway. Photographed for Shelter Scotland's 50th anniversary by Yeong Yao Ting.
Jim, a service user at the Shelter Scotland Support Service in Dumfries & Galloway. Photographed for Shelter Scotland's 50th anniversary by Yeong Yao Ting.


In Edinburgh, Shelter pilots a project working with young, unemployed people to build homes. The project enjoys praise and a visit from HRH Prince Charles.


Shelter launches eight Care and Repair projects throughout Scotland, helping older people who need their accommodation adapted to allow them to stay in their homes.

Lawyer standing, holding red folder/file/binder.


Our in-house team of lawyers is formed to take on cases directly on behalf of our clients.


Shelter Scotland tackles the increasing number of young Scots who are destitute through our campaign for the Rough Sleepers' Initiative, stopping the rise in street homelessness.

Home sweet home written on cardboard box.
Helpline advisor, Sheffield


Our national helpline opens, answering 40,000 calls in its first year.


Shelter Scotland launches its first Families Project, providing practical and emotional support for those who have children and are facing homelessness.

Happy family getting advice
Mother and son. Phone. Moving boxes.


At Shelter Scotland's recommendation, the Government sets up the Homelessness Task Force. By 2002, it has set out the most ambitious programme of action on homelessness ever seen in Shelter's time.


After the introduction of the Homelessness (Scotland) Act 2003, the Government limits the use of bed and breakfast hotels for families waiting for a permanent home.

Mother and baby in overcrowded room
Denise and baby


After years of campaigning from Shelter Scotland, the Tenancy Deposit Scheme comes into force. To this day, the scheme ensures that 11 million tenants' deposits are protected.


The groundbreaking commitment to ending priority need in homelessness applications (known as the 2012 commitment) is introduced. This commitment means every unintentionally homeless household is entitled to a settled home.

Mother and son, smiling.


The Under Occupancy Deduction, also known as the 'bedroom tax', is introduced in the UK. This means a reduction in the housing benefit social tenants receive if they are deemed to have a spare bedroom.

Shelter Scotland successfully campaigns for the government to protect the most vulnerable from these changes.


Shelter Scotland campaigns to end 'Right to Buy', which had resulted in the loss of half a million council homes. The Scottish Government removes the 'Right to Buy' in 2016, meaning socially rented homes are now protected for those who need them, and local authorities are starting to build again.

Aly, a service user at the Shelter Scotland Support Service in Dumfries & Galloway. Photographed for Shelter Scotland's 50th anniversary by Yeong Yao Ting. Mother and baby, back to camera, window.
Denise and baby portrait


The Scottish Government responds to our campaign calling for more affordable homes and commits to building 50,000 new affordable homes by 2021.


In September 2016, Shelter Scotland launches a national campaign called Homelessness: Far From Fixed. This campaign successfully puts homelessness firmly on the political agenda. One year into the campaign, the First Minister announces that national objectives would be set to eradicate rough sleeping, to establish a homelessness and rough sleeping action group and to create an ‘Ending Homelessness Together’ Fund. These commitments are welcome and begin to address some of our calls for action, funding and mechanisms for change.



High profile campaigning by Shelter Scotland to 'Make Renting Right' leads to the Scottish Parliament passing landmark legislation, which significantly boosts the legal rights of private tenants to stay securely in their rented homes.


More people than ever come to us for help. Our frontline advisors and support workers help over 21,000 people across Scotland, and more than 820,000 people access information and advice through our website.

Red/pink hair
School children with #stillfighting campaign sign


50 years on, we’re still fighting until there’s a home for everyone.

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