Holyrood committee issues calls for views on how to stop the ‘misery of homelessness’

MSPs meet Streetwork 3

MSPs meet homeless people at Streetwork in Edinburgh

The Scottish Parliament’s local government and communities committee is asking if more can be done to help families and individuals facing homelessness in Scotland as it launches a call for views today.

The committee wants to find out more about the reasons why people become homeless and whether the services available to those facing housing crises are working effectively.

As part of their research, MSPs visited homeless women and men in emergency accommodation and shelters in Perthshire, Edinburgh and Glasgow as well as meeting with organisations that provide frontline support.

Local government and communities committee convener, Bob Doris MSP, said: “Everyone deserves to have a safe place that they can call home. However, on the committee’s visits to homeless shelters across Scotland, we heard that many still face the misery of homelessness and rough sleeping in our cities and rural areas.

“The homeless people we met said that relationship breakdowns, disruptive family life or mental health issues were the main reasons for their lives spiralling out of control – leading to a chaotic life on the streets or sofa-surfing with nowhere permanent to live.

“We now want to hear views on a wide variety of housing and homelessness issues across Scotland. For example, how can we better support those with multiple or complex needs who are in danger of losing their homes? And is emergency accommodation meeting the needs of those desperately in search for shelter and support?”


Key facts

  • In 2015-16, 34,662 homeless applications were made to local authorities in Scotland.
  • The majority of homeless applications tend to be single, younger males, of white Scottish ethnicity.
  • Around half of all homeless households are headed by someone aged under 30.
  • Female homeless applications are typically younger, with more female applications than male in the under 25s.
  • Over half of all homeless applications in 2015-16 were due to relationship breakdown or being asked to leave.

Bob added: “Our committee also want to explore best practice internationally when it comes to tackling homelessness. For example, in Finland the ‘housing first’ model aims to offer housing as quickly as possible. The idea being that once the person has a stable home, they can address issues that caused them to be at risk of homelessness in the first place.”

Eddie, who supports the committee’s call for views, was homeless for two years after his life spiralled out of control following the death of his partner.

Eddie, who is 61 years old and currently living in Lanarkshire, said: “I heard something upstairs and found that my partner had collapsed to the floor. She’d had a heart attack out of the blue, and had died by the time I got to her.

“That’s when my life hit rock bottom. Looking back now, I know that I rushed into a new relationship out of grief and it was the wrong thing to do. I ended up inheriting my new partner’s debts and this eventually led to me having a nervous breakdown.

“I was at a really low point in my life. I was drinking a lot and had suicidal thoughts. One night, I got picked up by the police after they found me on the banks of the Clyde where I was thinking about ending it all.

“I lost my home, my family, and felt completely isolated. I was put into temporary accommodation miles away from where I’m from and this just made my feelings of loneliness and desperation worse.

“But one day, I had a Simon Community Scotland leaflet through the letterbox and that’s when things started to change.”

Eddie is now a full-time volunteer at the homeless charity, where he helps people who are currently homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Eddie added: “I’ve now got my life back, thanks to Simon Community Scotland, and I’m helping people who have fallen on hard times.

“I’d encourage homeless people, groups and the general public to send across their views to the Holyrood Committee. This is a chance for your voice to be heard.”