Far From Fixed: Shelter report reveals true scale of homelessness in Scotland

The complexities of the homelessness system across Scotland and the multiple issues that people who are homeless face have been outlined in a new report published today.

Housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland’s publication Getting Behind the Homelessness Statistics - Update for 2017/18 is an in-depth analysis of Scottish Government and local authority data gathered over the last year.

According to the report, there were 34,972 homeless applications across Scotland last year and the picture emerging is of mental health issues, complex needs, loss of contact with people seeking housing support by local authorities and standards in temporary accommodation all requiring urgent attention to prevent Scotland’s homelessness crisis from deepening.

The report concludes that prevention of homelessness is vital, saying that investment in support services to prevent a person or household becoming homeless is a more effective approach and better use of resources rather than just responding to people in crisis. The report also highlights that despite a lot of improvements across the sector in recent years, a lack of support and joined-up response to homelessness across Scotland is leaving people falling through the gaps. It also identifies a need for a better and more responsive housing system and stresses the importance of having a strong housing safety net.

Recommendations include increased prevention activities in groups of people that are consistently overrepresented in homelessness statistics, such as care leavers, prison leavers, and former members of the armed forces. Increased levels of repeat homelessness were also highlighted, with a recommendation that extra support should be provided to people who are known to struggle to sustain their tenancy.

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “We know that there is a lot of excellent work being carried out by people working in homelessness services across Scotland and there is a commitment at national and local government levels to do more.

“However, this new analysis matches the experience of our frontline services, that mental health issues and complex needs among people presenting as homeless are on the rise and is of increasing concern to us. Combined with rising repeat homelessness and local authorities losing contact with more than 1 in 7 people who approach them for housing help, we feel that, without urgent action now, there is a clear risk of homelessness in Scotland continuing to rise and having an even more profound effect on people facing homelessness.

“Also, with the number of households and the number of children in temporary accommodation having risen for the fourth year running, up to 10,933 and 6,615 respectively, there is a clear need for the introduction of new enforceable standards in the quality of temporary accommodation and for moves to reduce the length of stay – particularly for families – to a minimum.

“It is vital that local authorities are held to account and supported to reduce the practice of housing people in unsuitable accommodation, particularly in instances where it is illegal – for instance, extended stays in bed and breakfast accommodation.”

Graeme Brown added: “From health to housing support and homeless prevention services, significant investment and cross-organisational working is vital to help tackle many of the issues highlighted in the report.

“And of course, Scotland also needs to build enough social and affordable housing of the right sort in places where people want to live to meet growing demand.”

More recommendations from the report include local authorities taking action to reduce the proportion of outcomes in both Housing Options and homelessness services in which contact is lost with a household, targeted assistance for young people facing homelessness and more consideration to tackle the gendered nature of homelessness.

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