Glasgow City Council ‘fully acknowledges’ homelessness ‘logjam’
Glasgow City Council has told Scottish Housing News that it “fully acknowledges” people have had to be turned away from its homelessness services as it struggles to deal with a “logjam” in temporary accommodation.
Following an undercover investigation by The Evening Times, which found as many as 20 to 25 homeless people being turned away to sleep on the streets every day, the local authority said it is working hard on two fronts to address the situation.
A council spokesman told Scottish Housing News: “We fully acknowledge the pressures on the homelessness system in Glasgow.
“Last year we invited the Scottish Housing Regulator to come and have an oversight into our homelessness work as we had to turn away some people presenting as homeless because of a shortage of accommodation. Along with the SHR we developed an action plan with a range of measures intended to extend the number of temporary and emergency beds available and also to address the fundamental issue of permanent beds in the city.
“Glasgow is unique in Scotland in that housing associations own all of the city’s social housing stock therefore the council is completely dependent on registered social landlords to provide permanent accommodation for people affected by homelessness but insufficient numbers of homes are being made available to help meet demand.
“To fully address the problem we need around 45 per cent of lets to help people affected by homelessness but at the moment this number is more around 37 per cent.
“This lack of permanent homes means the demand is not being met week after week and creates a logjam in our temporary accommodation services.
“However, we are investing over £12 million in two new emergency accommodation units which can house up to 60 people while we have secured an extension into our work transforming elderly care homes into homelessness accommodation. We have also been able to secure temporary furnished flats from Wheatley Group.
“The average number of homelessness applications to the council has drop substantially over the last ten years and we have worked to make over 2,000 temporary accommodation beds available but the supply is still not enough to meet the annual demand which can reach between 6,000 and 7,000 applications a year.”
The council closed three large scale hostels between 2004 and 2008, which provided accommodation for up to 700 men.
In its place a new system of small scale units was developed which can accommodate over 600 men while also trebling the number of temporary furnished flats available to the council from 600 to 1800.
However, the number of temporary furnished flats has fallen back in the past couple of years due to developments such as the demolition of a large number of high rises in the city.
A system of ‘floating support’ has also been developed which assists people who have been affected by homelessness in emergency, temporary or permanent accommodation. This has supported up to 4000 people at times.
A large scale hostel for women, which accommodated 70 women, was closed in 2012 and was replaced by two smaller units.
The Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF) said its members have worked hard with the council to improve its system of referrals to housing associations.
GWSF chair Peter Howden, said: “For many years housing associations in the city have been trying to work with the council to sort out the system used to refer homeless applicants to local associations. The current industrial action will obviously be making what was already a difficult situation worse.
“Community based housing associations are already making a good contribution to tackling homelessness and are keen to do more. There is an agreed system for making referrals to housing associations but this isn’t being put into practice by the council. It doesn’t help, for example, if someone is referred to an area where they have no connection and don’t want to live.
“We’ve been in ongoing discussions with the council to find ways of making things work much more efficiently for homeless people, and are very much hoping there will be improvements in the future.”
Responding to the initial Evening Times investigation, Jon Sparkes, chief executive of homeless charity Crisis, said: “Sleeping rough is a devastating experience. The average age of death for homeless people is just 47. It is scandalous that people in 21st century Scotland are still being turned away to sleep on the streets – especially as most will have a legal right to be found settled housing.
“Like all local authorities, Glasgow City Council is wrestling with budget cuts and a woeful lack of suitable homes to help get these people off the streets and back on their feet. But leaving them to sleep rough is unacceptable. We need more services in place to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place, and more accommodation to take people in when they do need help.”