Skip to main content

Homelessness far from fixed - Why Scotland needs a National Homelessness Strategy

By: Shelter Scotland  Published: October 2016

Back in 2012 the landmark Homelessness Task Force report certainly set new standards in breadth and ambition. A lot has been achieved since then: most significantly, reform to homelessness law in Scotland, to give all homeless people similar rights: the right to a settled home.However, homelessness is far from fixed.


The best legal framework is only as good as the way it provides people with the help they need. Across the country services are uneven. 10,000 people are in temporary accommodation: the right to a home is not the same as getting a home.

Meanwhile, 150,000 households on council house waiting lists show the wider strain on the system.  That is why it is time to re-forge a commitment to tackling homelessness, building on the gains of the last decade and a half but also recognising the areas where progress has been patchier.

Scotland needs also to recognise the changing shape of welfare, the shifts in population and the evolving institutional landscape.  So that re-commitment is not just one for housing campaigners and housing practitioners. It is for political leaders at all levels, political parties; members of the public and users of housing services.  A refreshed homelessness plan and programme would re-invigorate current expert and practitioner groups.

It would set new horizons for homelessness services and deliver on other top-ranking national priorities: improving social justice, bridging the attainment gaps in schools and focusing public spending on prevention work.  Most of all, it would allow that claim – that Scotland leads the world on homelessness – to be backed by evidence of real progress, real change. 

The 2002 homeless commitment was the product of a new infant parliament, eager to show the world that new forms of institution could make a real difference. As Scotland’s Parliament grows into a new, more mature phase there is no better focus than homelessness to show why that matters.