Fears raised over capacity to fight homelessness

A report this month by the charity Crisis has raised concerns about Scotland’s ability to tackle homelessness, with more people being forced to stay longer in temporary accommodation.

Although the numbers of households assessed as homeless has continued to fall, dropping 5% from last year, Crisis argue that the number of homeless applications has remained steady at around 54,000 – taking into account the use of Housing Options services.

The report also raised concerns that some councils “were using Housing Options to deny people their statutory rights, limiting assistance to just signposting to other services.”

Beth Reid, Crisis’ policy manager for Scotland, said that while some councils’ prevention strategies were working very well – such as direct mediation with landlords to prevent eviction – others were employing a “light tough” approach, redirecting people to organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Those who are being rehoused – at any given time there are between 10-11,000 Scottish households in temporary accommodation -are being forced to stay for an average of 8 months or more.

This, she said, puts people’s “lives on hold” in accommodation that can range from a furnished flat to a BnB with no access to cooking, nowhere to store fresh food and sometimes no access to the building for people working on shifts.

Welfare reform has also had a major impact on homelessness in Scotland, Reid said, with cuts to housing benefits making it harder for people to cover the rent.

Crisis has welcomed the SNP commitment to build an extra 50,000 affordable houses if re-elected in 2016, and also believe there is room to work with benefit powers due to be devolved.

However, Reid said that Scotland needs to get “a lot better at preventing homelessness,” especially given the issue is a front line for people with more complex needs.

This article was first published by The National (19/12/15).

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