Undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the research has estimated that £29m in public funds would be saved this year if all single people predicted to live in unsuitable temporary accommodation were moved to more suitable accommodation within seven days. On average, a homeless person currently spends 38 days in unsuitable temporary accommodation so moving them on after seven days would save around £800 each time someone is moved on to more suitable housing for the remaining 31 days.
Crisis’ campaign A Life In Limbo is calling on the Scottish Government to change the law and extend the seven-day restriction on unsuitable temporary accommodation to all homeless people. Currently, there is a legal limit of seven days for families and pregnant women, but no limit at all for any other groups. A change in the law would require councils to move people into permanent accommodation quickly – or at the very least into more suitable accommodation that, whilst still temporary, is fit to live in.
The number of households currently housed in unsuitable temporary accommodation in Scotland is estimated at 2,070. This type of emergency accommodation is supposed to be a temporary fix until councils can provide more permanent accommodation. However, evidence from Crisis shows that people are being stuck here for weeks, months and even years. Lengthy stays in B&Bs, unsupported hostels and lodging houses are destructive, demoralising and stops people from moving on from homelessness.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “Today’s report highlights the urgent need for the Scottish Government to change the law and ensure valuable resource is spent on moving people out of homelessness for good. By placing a 7-day legal limit on how long a single person spends in costly and unsuitable emergency accommodation, today’s report shows that Government could save £29m. Not only would this improve lives, but it would also result in significant savings – meaning council budgets could be better spent on increasing the availability of affordable homes for all.”
The charity says that if people are to move on with their lives and leave homelessness behind for good, the Scottish Government must legislate now to ensure no one is trapped in a life of limbo. Specifically, it must ensure that nobody has to spend longer than seven days in B&Bs and unsupported hostels.
Annabelle is currently being supported by the Crisis Skylight team in Edinburgh, she’s been stuck in a bed and breakfast accommodation for over 15 months now. She said of her experience: “You have to give your keys every time you leave and sometimes when you come back it takes them up to forty-five minutes to let you back in. So, you just have to wait there in the cold. I understand they have to make rules but when you’re living that way as a grown adult it’s so dehumanising. There’s always this implication that we can’t be trusted. All I want now is a nice place to live. But really all I mean is a safe place to live.”
Further evidence from people, who have experienced long-term stays in B&Bs or other types of unsuitable temporary accommodation, shows that there are a number of common problems. These include:
- No access to basic amenities such as refrigeration, cooking and laundry facilities
- Poor access to rights, meaning people may be asked to leave with just a few hours’ notice, and strict curfews mean they may not be able to come and go freely, or to stay away from their home overnight
- Isolation, especially where B&B provision is far from family and friends
- Lack of support from homelessness services
- Uncertainty about the future
- Feeling threatened or risking a return to destructive lifestyles especially if several people are housed in one place by the council.