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Housing

Homelessness in Scotland can end in a decade, say campaigners

The Everyone Home Collective has laid out a roadmap setting out the steps to ending homelessness ahead of Holyrood elections next May

Scotland can be free from homelessness inside the next decade – if MSPs follow a new roadmap proposed by 30 charities, academics and experts.

The Everyone Home Collective has urged all political parties to back their plan for the next two parliamentary terms to ensure no one goes without a home.

“Homelessness is not inevitable, or an unsolvable problem,” said Maggie Brünjes, chief executive at Homeless Network Scotland. “The causes are predictable and we know who is most at risk – we can end homelessness in Scotland over two parliaments.

“Sustaining the cross-party accord on tackling homelessness that underpins the current approach in Scotland, and continuing this into the next Parliament and beyond, would provide consistency and stability.”

Candidates and ministers are currently drawing up manifesto pledges ahead of next May’s Holyrood elections and the collective has laid out the steps that need to be taken to ensure the ambitious goal is met inside a decade.

The Collective’s asks include a commitment to end child poverty by 2030, 53,000 affordable homes to be built over the next five years, including 37,100 homes for social rent, and for rough sleeping to be considered a public health emergency.

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The proposals centre around five key areas: prioritising prevention of homelessness, building more homes, ending rough sleeping, ensuring there are no evictions into homelessness, and systemic change.

As well as ending child poverty, they are calling for investment into an early-warning system to stop families from falling into poverty in the first place. The collective also wants to ensure no one is discharged into homelessness from hospital, prison, care, the armed forces or the asylum system.

The roadmap also calls for emergency night shelters with dormitory style accommodation to be replaced by plans to ensure people are placed in homes quickly through a scaled-up Housing First programme and not left in unsuitable temporary accommodation.

Delivering the social and affordable homes we need is the only way to tackle the root causes of rising homelessness

Ending destitution in Scotland is another key step. Ministers are urged to provide people with no recourse to public funds – migrants and asylum seekers who cannot access benefits – with decent and safe housing as well as practical and emotional support.

Evictions must be “an absolute last resort”, the group said, and no one should be evicted into homelessness.

Alison Watson, Shelter Scotland director, is keen to see future Scottish governments build affordable housing. The current regime has already admitted that it is “unlikely” they will hit their target of building 50,000 affordable homes by the end of their term, blaming Covid-19 construction disruption. 

Watson said: “Delivering the social and affordable homes we need is the only way to tackle the root causes of rising homelessness, and it will help Scotland meet its climate targets and reduce poverty and inequality.

“Our next intake of MSPs have the power to achieve this, and it’s the single most important step they can take toward a safer, healthier, fairer future.”

Lorraine McGrath, chief executive of another Collective member Simon Community Scotland, described backing the road map as a “simple choice for our politicians” following the “remarkable but not entirely expected” efforts to protect rough sleepers during the first Covid-19 lockdown.

Responding to the road map, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart confirmed that the Scottish Government is ending the use of night shelters, establishing new rapid rehousing welcome centres in their place.

Their updated action plan, published in October, also prioritises settled accommodation over temporary housing and vows to bring in measures to reduce the risk of eviction.

Stewart said: “We are already working tirelessly to prioritise prevention and end homelessness and rough sleeping once and for all in Scotland.”

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