Demand ‘higher than ever’ for help with bad housing and homelessness

Graeme Brown

More people than ever before have been helped with bad housing and homelessness issues with young adults and private renters still bearing the brunt of Scotland’s housing crisis, Shelter Scotland has revealed.

The charity has released new figures in its annual Impact Report showing the scale of Scotland’s national housing emergency, saying that last year 21,290 people received help from its housing advice and support services – more than ever before.

In its Annual Impact Report 2017/18, the charity says that 46% of its clients were aged 16-34 years old. It also showed that 36% of its clients were private renters – a disproportionately high number compared to the size of the private rental sector, which makes up just 15% of all housing in Scotland.

Clients were helped via its free national helpdesk, digital chat service and one-to-one advice sessions. There were also 894,025 unique visits to its online advice pages in Scotland.

The main reason people gave for needing help (46%) was ‘keeping their home’ i.e. struggling to afford their housing costs or facing eviction. 32% of people who came to Shelter Scotland last year wanted help to ‘find a home’ – including advice and assistance with homelessness. Of those seeking help, 58% were female and 42% male.

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Last year we had to help more people than ever before, which is why, in our 50th anniversary year, we’re not celebrating. We thought that by now bad housing and homelessness would be largely a thing of the past, but instead, as this report clearly shows, our services are needed more than ever.

“The report shows once again the disproportionate impact of Scotland’s housing crisis on young people and private renters who are both over-represented in the number of people we helped.

“An acute shortage of truly affordable homes, harsh welfare reforms, stagnant wages and the high cost of keeping a roof over their head are the main reasons driving people to ask for help.

“Struggling to afford or pay housing costs is the biggest presenting problem people have when coming to us for help.”

Graeme Brown added: “Scotland’s housing statistics speak for themselves – on average, a household becomes homeless every 18 minutes. Rough sleepers are dying on our city streets and the number of homeless children is at a 10-year high. Unknown numbers are sofa surfing with friends and families as they don’t have, or cannot afford, a home of their own.

“Behind those statistics are people, families, individuals – people on low incomes, people with complex needs, people in crisis – some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“These are the people we help day-in, day-out and, until there’s a decent, safe and secure home for everyone, we’ll carry on fighting for everyone in Scotland facing bad housing and homelessness.

“Our Impact Report also shows the tremendous amount of work that we do behind the scenes to ensure that housing policy in Scotland is robust and protects as many people as possible from bad practice – such as the 21 policy papers we published last year and the 1,831 people we trained on housing law and practice.

“And along with 12 campaign days in towns and cities throughout Scotland and promoting the new Private Rented Tenancy in partnership with the Scottish Government, it’s been an incredibly busy year and the next 12 months is set to be more of the same.

“We thank all our supporters, volunteers and staff for ensuring we can carry-on delivering the vital support and advice to the people who need us most.”