Around 43,000 people became homeless in Scotland last year
New analysis from Shelter Scotland revealed that around 43,000 people, including children, became homeless in the last year.
Across the UK, the number of people registered as homeless rose for the third year running to reach nearly 320,000.
The overall increase of 13,000 people means one in every 200 people in Britain are homeless and having to sleep on the streets or being stuck in temporary accommodation, including hostels and B&Bs.
Shelter Scotland and Shelter have launched an urgent appeal calling on the public to support its frontline advisers who help the growing number of people trying to find or keep a home.
In its annual landmark review, the housing charity combined official rough-sleeping, temporary accommodation, social services figures and Scottish Government homelessness statistics.
As these records are not definitive, the true figure of homelessness is likely to be even higher.
Stephanie from North Lanarkshire has been homeless for over a year. She’s eight months pregnant and has been signed-off work due to a chronic illness which leaves her in a lot of pain. She spent months sleeping on a mattress on a friend’s floor because she couldn’t afford temporary accommodation when she was working. An error meant the council didn’t take her homelessness application which has delayed her getting help to find a permanent home. She used advice from Shelter Scotland’s helpline to get into a temporary flat. She’s now preparing for a move to permanent accommodation and is thankful her homelessness nightmare is coming to an end just in time for her baby’s birth.
Stephanie said: “When I was signed off work I was able to claim benefits to cover the cost but it’s unbelievable. They’re charging £1300 a month for a one bed flat when my neighbours who are in permanent tenancies are paying about £260. If I was working right now there is no way I’d be able to pay that. It’s a disgrace. I’ve had a hellish time and the strain it puts on your mental health is awful. The flat is in okay condition but given how much money they are charging for it it’s not that good.
“When I was staying with my friend, she was lovely and happy to have me, but I felt like a burden. It was so deflating and demoralising because I’ve always looked after myself and now because I’m having a bit of a struggle I can’t. Again, with my illness it was frustrating but I started having anxiety and mental health issues because I just felt trapped. I was trying to keep a job and deal with the situation but I couldn’t afford homeless accommodation.”
When Stephanie was signed-off work due to ill-health and pregnancy she went back to the council to update them on her circumstances she discovered they hadn’t taken her homelessness application at all. She spoke to Shelter Scotland’s helpline for advice.
“I wasn’t aware of what my rights were and I spoke to the Shelter Scotland helpline and they told me I’d been misinformed and that I should still have been assessed as homeless even though I was staying with a friend. I went back to the council and their attitude just changed as soon as I mentioned Shelter’s name. Within 28 days I was moved into temporary accommodation and I’ve now been offered permanent housing in time for my baby coming. It’s a huge relief to know that when we come out of hospital we’ll be going to our permanent home and I can have my family around me for support.”
Alison Watson, deputy director of Shelter Scotland, said: “It’s unforgivable that almost 320,000 people in Britain have been swept up by the housing crisis and now have no place to call home. Around 43,000 people were made homeless in Scotland last year.
“Due to a perfect storm of spiralling rents, very harsh welfare cuts and a major lack of social housing, record numbers of people are sleeping out on the streets, stuck in poor quality accommodation or in a cramped hostel room.”
Alison Watson added: “This year we mark our 50th anniversary, but we aren’t celebrating as our help is needed more than ever. Last year Shelter Scotland’s advice services helped more than 21,000 people our highest ever. That’s why we’re asking the public to support us this winter, so that we can answer as many calls as possible and have trained advisers on hand when people need them most.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are determined to bring an end to homelessness and rough sleeping in Scotland.
“While temporary accommodation provides an important safety net in emergency situations, we want the time anyone has to spend there to be as short as possible.
“That is why are working to transform the homelessness system so that people can secure a permanent home far more quickly.”
Scottish Labour’s spokesperson for equalities, housing and social security, Pauline McNeill, said: “The Scottish Parliament introduced world leading legislation on homelessness but under this government’s watch homelessness applications and rough sleeping have increased.
“People are falling through the cracks because of brutal cuts to social security and local government. This cannot go on.”