Housing

Scotland's homeless support is 'struggling to cope'

Alison Watson told MSPs the current model of temporary housing tackled rough sleeping but offering insufficient homeless support.

Homeless deaths in Scotland

Scotland has the highest rate of homeless deaths of any UK country. Image credit: Ev/Unsplash

Homeless support in Scotland is “struggling to cope” with the complex needs of many vulnerable people in hotels across the country, according to the director of charity Shelter Scotland.

Alison Watson told MSPs at the Scottish Parliament’s Covid-19 Committee that the current crisis has exacerbated Scotland’s housing emergency, with the current model of temporary housing tackling rough sleeping but offering insufficient help for those at risk.

Liberal Democrat MSP Beatrice Wishart asked what more could be done to ensure these groups are not left behind.

Ms Watson highlighted those with substance dependency, as well as survivors of domestic and sexual abuse, as those most in need of additional support among Scotland’s homeless population.

Lockdowns have taken income away from hundreds of Big Issue sellers. Support The Big Issue and our vendors by signing up for a subscription

Shelter Scotland’s director said the emergency measures put in place to reduce homelessness during the pandemic, including the provision of hotel accommodation, have helped.

But Ms Watson said the issues with housing so many in hotels need to be properly understood, warning the system is “struggling to cope”.

She said: “I think there’s a lot of success in taking that as an opportunity to say here’s a group of people who are in one place, we can build relationships with them and understand what their issues are and work with them. Our concern would be that that’s not happening for everyone, particularly people with more complex needs.

“What we see is a system struggling to cope, to put enough support in place to avoid a situation where in effect we’re bringing together in these hotels a large number of people with significant vulnerabilities, and that feels to us dangerous in the context of not having sufficient support, nor sufficient accommodation to move people on.

Shelter Scotlands Director Alison Watson appearing during a virtual meeting of the Scottish Parliaments Covid-19 committee
Alison Watson
Alison Watson warned Scotland's support systems are being stretched during the pandemic. Credit: Scottish Parliament TV

“If we can’t accommodate people just now, there’s a danger we see a dramatic spike in rough sleeping when the emergency protections and the investment that make that possible are removed.

“We need to understand what is currently working, and where what we’re seeing is overstretched resources simply not being able to cope and reach everybody.”

The charity’s director was among a number of representatives giving evidence on what they believe the next steps should be in managing and recovering from the pandemic.

Ms Watson also said Scotland had an opportunity as it emerges from the grasp of coronavirus to eradicate homelessness, praising the government’s initial response to the pandemic in providing shelter for individuals.

Shelter Scotland supports the extension of the emergency legislation in place to protect renters and homeowners across the country, suggesting many of these could become permanent fixtures in law beyond September this year.

She said: “Before this pandemic Scotland was already in the grip of a housing emergency. We need to recognise that being housed is vastly different from having a home.

“Now is not the time to take off the emergency protections that have done so well, and we also can’t have a cliff-edge.

“I think as we begin to look, to hopefully the end of the pandemic, we need to recognise we’ve got a unique opportunity here as we can decisively end Scotland’s housing emergency.”

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Beat the Streets music festival funds new homes for rough sleepers: 'If we could do more, we would'
Homelessness

Beat the Streets music festival funds new homes for rough sleepers: 'If we could do more, we would'

Rents in UK are rising at highest rate in decades. Will they keep going up?
rents uk
Renting

Rents in UK are rising at highest rate in decades. Will they keep going up?

Scotland needs real-time rough sleeping count to save lives
rough sleeping and temporary accommodation in Scotland is under the spotlight on Buchanan Street in Glasgow
homelessness

Scotland needs real-time rough sleeping count to save lives

'More bad news for renters': Rental crisis continues with steep rent rises despite inflation falling
inflation is falling but rents are still rising at a faster rate than wages
RENTING

'More bad news for renters': Rental crisis continues with steep rent rises despite inflation falling

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know