‘Homeless people need help long before they end up on the streets’

sad-659422_960_720In an open letter in The Herald, written to coincide with Mediation Awareness Week, a number of Scottish charities have stressed the importance of early intervention in reducing the number of people presenting as homeless and have urged the Scottish Government to take note.

There are two sides to every coin. The side that lands face up when you toss it, and the one which is hidden.

The Scottish Government’s commitment to ending rough sleeping and transforming the use of temporary accommodation is welcome, as is the newly announced £50m fund and Action Group. But it is only one side of a coin.

Homelessness isn’t just about rough sleeping, or what happens after you make a homelessness application, the housing you’re put in, or the choices you must then make. It’s about the choices you make before, about your early years, your upbringing, the conflict in your life and the communities around you. It’s about whether you live in the face of drug abuse, alcoholism, debt, or just falling on hard times when your chips are already down. Sometimes you’re not even born with a choice.

We, the undersigned, work directly with those whose lives have been adversely shaped by choices, whose life chances may have been different had help or support been in place for them before crisis struck, before arguments, conflict, or other troubles, led to homelessness. We believe in earlier interventions. Every year around 4,500 young people become homeless due to family relationship breakdown – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Eighteen per cent of people think about leaving home at least once a month.

As part of Mediation Awareness Week, we call on the Scottish Government to remain as resolutely committed to earlier intervention as they are to ending rough sleeping. To do this, we want a national audit and robust research on the current provision of mediation and conflict resolution services for young people across Scotland – these services work to support families and ensure young people don’t end up on the streets – but there isn’t a clear picture of what’s available.

Then, where there are gaps we need to see better provision. That’s why we are calling for mediation and wraparound support for young people, even those aged under 16, and their families to be available across all 32 local authorities – not just at the point of crisis, or if you live where there are services available.

Only then will we ensure we’re tackling both sides of the coin and working to end homelessness – before it even happens.

Ewan Aitken, CEO, Cyrenians; Diane Marr, Network Development Manager, Cyrenians’ Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution; Iain Gordon, Chief Executive, Bethany Christian Trust; Graham Boyack, Director, Scottish Mediation; Stuart Valentine, Chief Executive, Relationships Scotland; Kate Polson, Chief Executive, The Rock Trust; John Hinton, Executive Director, Move On, c/o 57 Norton Park, Albion Road, Edinburgh.