Homelessness action group begin £50 million mission to end rough sleeping

Former Big Issue vendor David Duke joins group at first meeting focusing on cutting time spent on the streets in winter

The Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group have met for the first time as they embark on a mission to end rough sleeping.

Announced by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last month, the 12-strong group of experts was revealed yesterday as they entered discussions on how to use their £50 million budget to minimise sleeping on the streets over the winter months in Scotland.

Street Soccer Scotland founder and former Big Issue vendor David Duke is among the names on the list alongside Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes, Shelter Scotland’s Alison Watson and Social Bite founder Josh Littlejohn.

We are committed to ending rough sleeping, preventing homelessness, and transforming outcomes for those who experience it

Glasgow homelessness support champions Susanne Miller, of the city’s council, Glasgow Homeless Network’s Maggie Brunjes, Mike Dailly from the Govan Law Centre and Queens Cross Housing Association’s Shona Stephen also form part of the group.

The former moderator of the Church of Scotland Russell Barr is offering his thoughts on the subject and he is joined by Lorraine McGrath of Simon Community/Street Wise and Fife Council’s John Mills while Suzanne Fitzpatrick is representing Heriot-Watt University on the panel.

The 12 representatives will be allocated £10 million annually over the next five years to focus on slashing the numbers of people sleeping on the streets as well as looking at preventing people from being rendered homeless.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “The Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group will be recommending immediate steps we can take to minimise rough sleeping, both this winter and for good, as well as ways to transform temporary accommodation.

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“The members bring a wide range of expertise, experience and enthusiasm and I know they will provide invaluable advice. The group will be engaging with all partners who deal with homelessness, including in local authorities and the third sector, so we can harness the wealth of knowledge available.

“We are committed to ending rough sleeping, preventing homelessness, and transforming outcomes for those who experience it. The action group and the new £50 million fund are important steps in achieving this.”

Crisis chief Sparkes, who is the chair of the new action group, insists that the varied specialities across the 12 experts can make a difference on the streets.

He said: “I am delighted to be working with such a dedicated and knowledgeable group of people who have the common goal of ending homelessness in Scotland. Today, our focus is on action that can be taken this winter to support as many rough sleepers as possible so that fewer people have to face the coldest months of the year without a roof over their heads.

“The Scottish Government has set us an ambitious goal but I am confident that with the invaluable experience of this group, combined with the views of people who have experience of homelessness, we can and will make all forms of homelessness a thing of the past.”

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