‘Scottish style Housing First’ approach needed to tackle homelessness, says Holyrood committee

The Scottish Parliament’s local government and communities committee has called for the implementation of a ‘Scottish style Housing First’ among a series of recommendations to tackle homelessness.

A report published today, which follows a year-long inquiry into the causes and long-term solutions to homelessness and rough sleeping in Scotland, said that a number of improvements are needed in the country’s approach to tackling the issue.

One of the recommendations is a nationwide rollout of a version of Housing First, which has been piloted in parts of Scotland. The housing model aims to quickly provide a home to those in need, alongside the right level of support, rather than going through several levels of temporary accommodation. It has proven to be successful in Finland: the only country in Europe where homelessness has declined.

The most recent Scottish Government figures show that homelessness remains a problem in Scotland, with more than 34,800 homeless applications made to local authorities last year.

Local government and communities committee convener, Bob Doris MSP, said: “We know there is no quick-fix solution to eradicating homelessness and it still remains a complex issue in Scotland and many other countries today.

“After hearing directly from people who are homeless and those who have experienced sleeping on the streets or sofa-surfing, as well as service providers on the front-line, it was clear that further action is needed.

“That’s why our committee has recommended that the Scottish Government learns from Finland and rolls out a Scottish version of Housing First, as a part of a potential solution to addressing homelessness.

“Housing is a basic human right and everyone should have a roof over their heads. We hope these recommendations will go some way towards ensuring that becomes the reality for more people and families in the future.”

The committee also highlighted the need for better support for some of the most vulnerable people in society. It heard from care-experienced young people, and some said they felt ‘trapped’ in unsuitable and sometimes ‘dangerous’ accommodation.

Mr Doris added: “It was worrying to hear that young and care-experienced people were put in accommodation in locations they didn’t know or feel safe in, which sometimes led to them being close to people who posed a threat to their safety and wellbeing.

“That’s why we’ve called for the Scottish Government and local authorities to recognise the huge importance of housing people where they have existing community ties so they feel safe and fully supported.”

Graeme Brown

Responding to the report, Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “This is a very welcome report that clearly shows there is a long way to go to fix the human tragedy of homelessness in Scotland. It is simply wrong that in the last six months in Scotland on average a household lost their home every 18 minutes.

“It is right that this report makes a broad range of recommendations on interconnected issues and we now need to urgently see some of these turn into systems and practice change on the ground to deliver a better service for those facing homelessness.

“Shelter Scotland has for years been campaigning for minimum standards in temporary accommodation and for a reduction in the length of time households are having to spend there, which currently averages 24 weeks, and we support the recommendations in this report in these areas. We also welcome the recognition in this report about the unacceptable problem of gatekeeping homeless people from the local authority services and support they have a right to. There is no place for this practice in Scotland and it must now be brought to an end.”

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “I welcome the committee’s report, which will help inform the steps we are already taking to address this important issue.

“Scotland has some of the strongest housing rights for homeless people but as this report highlights for some people – who may have more complex needs or be rough sleeping – simply providing accommodation is not always enough.”