Record numbers face winter in temporary accommodation

Posted 17 Nov 2020

Record numbers of households are facing winter in temporary accommodation because of the long-term shortage of social homes and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

At the end of March there were already 11, 665 households– including 7,280 children – in temporary accommodation but by September that had soared by more than a fifth (22%) to 14,229.

On average, households spend more than six months in temporary accommodation and families with children have the longest waits for permanent homes. In Midlothian, which has the longest average waiting times, a couple with children will wait an average of 935 days (two-and-a-half years) for their case to be resolved.

While some of the 2020 increase is attributable to people not being able to move home during lockdown, the backlog in temporary accommodation has built up over many years because there aren’t enough permanent social homes.

Give Home, Give Hope

This week, we’re launching our annual Winter Appeal, asking people to donate to make sure everyone in Scotland has somewhere safe, secure and affordable to live.

Between March and October this year, the charity opened 723 cases on average each month, or the equivalent of 33 a day, and its helpline and web chat facilities answered a total of 5,063 calls for help. Its Covid-19 advice page had 53,700 unique visitors.

Our director, Alison Watson, said:

“This is a really difficult time for all of us. But imagine how hard it must be if you don’t have a safe home to stay in.

“This year has hit people hard. Every day we get calls for help from in desperate situations; people worried what will become of them if they lose their home, people stuck in temporary accommodation that doesn’t meet their needs and growing numbers struggling in a home that needs repairs.

“That’s why we’re asking people to donate to Shelter Scotland this winter. People come to us for help at the toughest times of their lives. Together we can give families a home, and a reason to hope.

“In the long-run, the only way we can stop homelessness is by building enough homes for everyone. That’s why we’re calling on all political parties to build a better future by delivering the social homes that Scotland needs.

Real life story

When Constantin first came to Shelter Scotland last winter (Dec 2019) he and his pregnant girlfriend were sleeping on the streets in Glasgow because the council had refused him accommodation.

He told us:

“We slept in the street because the council would not give us accommodation. It was very horrible. Cold. Wet. I was worried for my girlfriend and the baby because we had to keep moving about all the time.

“When I started talking to Shelter Scotland, I made real progress. I saw my adviser every day for five days. Before, when I went to the council on my own, they’d find a nice way to say ‘no’ but once I had an adviser, things got better and the council gave us temporary accommodation.”

Constantin found work to support his family but when coronavirus hit and the country went into lockdown, the job disappeared. The couple had no money for food, fuel or clothes and Constantin walked the city streets every day looking for people donating food and warm clothes. They were often hungry.

Guided by Shelter Scotland Constantin worked on his own case, pulling together the evidence of his past work history to prove he was entitled to social security benefits and help to secure a permanent home.

Constantin said:

“I think Shelter Scotland saves lives. When you are on the street. Not showered. Filthy. Always keeping moving. It affects your mind. You feel so tired. You lose hope. You need someone to speak to. The council have a way of speaking to you that makes you feel worthless. Shelter Scotland was not like that. They understand me and show me and teach me what I needed to do.”

Constantin’s baby son was born in May and the couple moved into a new permanent social home in October. He has a part-time job and is looking for full time work.

He said:

“My nightmare is finished. I have somewhere to come back to. It’s so nice. It gives me hope and the power and strength to carry on. I still have some problems but the bigger problem of not having a home is over.”