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Thousands at risk as new figures show Scotland is still failing to tackle homelessness

Published: 26 June 2019

Thousands at risk as new figures show Scotland is still failing to tackle homelessness

We are calling on Scottish ministers to speed up efforts to stop people becoming homeless and to radically address the chronic shortage of homes for rent.

The annual homeless statistics published draw evidence from every local authority in Scotland and showed:

  • 3,415 families with children/pregnant women trapped in temporary accommodation – up 2%
  • On 3,535 occasions people were turned away by Local Authorities and denied their right to a home and often forced to sleep on the streets – up 10%
  • 620 breaches of the unsuitable accommodation order – up 57%

Since 2012, every unintentionally homeless person has had the right to a home. However, due to a chronic shortage of suitable homes for social rent, thousands are becoming trapped in unsuitable temporary accommodation – often for years at a time. Last year the Scottish Government launched a plan to adopt a rapid rehousing programme for people who enter the homelessness system, however this will do little to address the reasons people become homeless in the first place.

Commenting on today’s release of the annual homelessness statistics from the Scottish government, Gordon MacRae, head of communications and policy at Shelter Scotland, said:

“These statistics expose the devastating impact Scotland’s housing emergency is having on people’s lives. This is the human cost of our collective failure to build the homes we need. On an industrial scale, thousands of men, women and children are being denied their most basic right to a safe home.

“We wholeheartedly welcome the progress the Scottish Government has made on building 50,000 affordable homes, 35,000 for social rent by 2021. New Scottish Government-led initiatives like rapid rehousing will take time to bed in, but these only deal with the terrible consequences of becoming homeless, they do not address stopping homelessness by preventing it in the first place.

“Every 17.5 minutes a household was made homeless in Scotland last year with 29,894 households assessed as homeless – up 2% on last year.

“For the fifth year in a row the number of homeless children living in temporary accommodation has risen – up 3% to 6,795. People are having to stay longer in temporary accommodation with their lives in limbo.

“And on 3,535 occasions people were denied their legal right to emergency housing by local authorities – being turned away to sleep rough, sofa surf or return to dangerous situations.

“The question every citizen of Scotland must ask ourselves is how much longer are we prepared to tolerate this.”

Gordon MacRae added:

“Last year, when homeless applications rose for the first time in a decade, we warned that alarm bells should be ringing in Holyrood and asked for urgent action from all areas of local and national government to combat homelessness and its causes. On today’s evidence, it is clear no progress has been made and homelessness in Scotland is still getting worse not better.

“Rights are not a privilege they are a legal entitlement enforceable under the law. Shelter Scotland will not sit idly by as people’s legal rights to a home are routinely denied.”

Shelter Scotland ambassador Lee

Lee is a full-time student and mum of four children from Paisley. She’s had 10 years of experience of homelessness during her lifetime due to a lack of support for traumatic experiences in her childhood and a succession of poor-quality homes.  

Lee has turned her life around in the last six years, building a new life for herself in a new town and studying for a degree. However, she still considers herself to be at risk of homelessness.  

Lee is a volunteer ambassador for Shelter Scotland. She said:

“I was born homeless and spent 10 years in the revolving door of homelessness but for the last six years I’ve been more settled than ever before. My education has always been important to me. Ever since I ran away from home at 15 with six bags of school work and got seven standard grades sleeping on the streets I knew I wanted an education. Finally getting this chance to study at university means the world to me.   

“Over the past year it looked like I might have to give up my studies or apply as homeless because I couldn’t afford my private rent. I couldn’t face taking my children through the homelessness system again, so I was delighted when I was allocated a housing association home that’s £200 a month cheaper.   

“But the reality is that due to the way housing benefit works I don’t see a penny of the saving. I’m still expected to pay the same top up each month, so I’m still as much at risk of homelessness or dropping out of university as I was before I moved. It will be better in the long run when I’m working but right now it’s really hard to make ends meet.”  

Lee added:

“Being homeless is a terrible experience. Over the years it’s disrupted my children’s education and exposed them and me to lots of negative situations. It’s also really lonely and isolating.   

“It feels that no matter how hard I’ve tried homelessness still seems to be lurking around the corner.   

“I’d like to see more help for families like mine to keep their homes. It’s the best way of stopping homelessness.”

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