Housing

Displaced residents from the Glasgow School of Art fire are still homeless

Despite £3k on offer, residents expressed concerns over lack of direction and accessing help. However, Glasgow City Council says it is doing all it can with the stock of housing it has available

Residents displaced from their homes after the Glasgow School of Art fire have expressed their frustration at the lack of help accessing accommodation, as they’ve been forced to declare themselves homeless.

One resident, Libbie Usher, told The Big Issue that “nothing seems to be helping except causing a storm online”, and she took to Facebook to explain her situation.

Usher was evacuated from her home in the early hours of the fire but when told it was only for a few days packed just the bare essentials. After six days of trying to access emergency accommodation, she was told she would have to declare herself homeless in order to access any further help.

“I officially declared myself homeless and was told hotels would now be booked on a one night basis. Since then I’ve been sent to a different hotel every night,” she said. “After doing this for around five days I’ve now been told [starting] Monday if I don’t take a flat that I have been offered I will stop getting help, even if the flat isn’t suitable,” she said.

We are working with the stock we have available

But a Glasgow City Council spokesperson today told The Big Issue it’s doing all it can to help residents.

“On accommodation, we are working with the stock we have available – which, as you’ll appreciate, is always the case when people become homeless and require temporary accommodation,” a council spokesperson said in an email.

“We absolutely understand that the main question people want an answer to is when they will be able to return home – it is clearly a very frustrating and trying time for those involved. However, that is not something we will even be able to estimate until significant progress has been made to make the damaged buildings safe. When it is safe to reduce the exclusion zone, we will.”

Residents Alexsandra Connor (21) & Michael Argent (30) were also offered unsuitable accommodation after moving into their Sauchiehall St flat just two weeks ago. They say the move is increasing their financial worries.

I had to take something soon as they would stop offering

“We were offered two flats that are too far from town with zero transport, but when I explained this I was told not to expect to be put up in hotels and and I had to take something soon as they would stop offering,” they said. “The rent where we have been put up isn’t much cheaper than what we paid for at our other home, and on top of the rent we have bills, council tax and the fact we have to buy clothes for work and the bare essentials to get by.”

As well as problems around temporary accommodation, residents have also raised concerns about the availability of information, with Usher noting help has “not been that easy to access”.

Yesterday, the Scottish Government announced a £1500 fund for each of the 33 displaced households, matched by the council, but residents say they have not been told how to access this.

The council spokesperson said they were still in the process of setting this up, but advised residents to see staff based at the Glasgow Dental Hospital for advice on making an application for the Scottish Welfare Fund.

Meanwhile, Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken has criticised insurers telling BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme that firms “are not behaving very well” in how they’ve dealt with residents.

This weekend the Garnethill Displaced Residents Group will meet with the council, building control and Police Scotland to receive an update on the future.

Image: Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

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