Glasgow City Council threatened with court action over homelessness failures

Shelter Scotland has threatened to take Glasgow City Council to court over what the charity describes as ‘gatekeeping’ and systemic failures within the city’s homelessness services.

In a solicitor’s letter to be delivered today, the housing and homelessness charity announced it is preparing to seek a judicial review unless the council “ends the practice of unlawfully denying homeless people temporary accommodation”.

The letter was hand-delivered by a delegation of formerly homeless people, who are inviting the public to join the court action.

The threat of judicial review follows repeated engagement by Shelter Scotland with Glasgow City Council councillors and officials over several years which culminated in a high-profile protest in July 2018 that led to promises of improvements. However, the most recent official statistics published last month show that the situation has worsened over the last 12 months, with people forced back on the streets 3,365 times compared to 3,025 occasions the previous year.

Today’s legal letter outlines the basis for avoiding court action. The charity said it “will not sit idly by” as people’s legal rights to a home are routinely denied and that it will speak out while others stay silent. The charity has called on the council to should stop turning people away and guarantee never to force them onto the street again.

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Quite simply, enough is enough. The facts are clear; Glasgow City Council is breaking the law; homeless people are being forced onto the streets; officials are unable or unwilling to tackle the problem; and the numbers are getting worse not better.

“This is a Glasgow problem that needs leadership from the top to tackle. When Shelter Scotland supporters protested outside the City Chambers last year, we were hopeful that things would get better. Instead the numbers have gone up during a year when 47 people have died on Glasgow’s streets.

“Rights are not a privilege - they are a legal entitlement enforceable by law and GCC should not be allowed to disregard the law with impunity. If action is not taken to end this practice and public bodies can pick and choose which laws they wish to follow, then it will undermine citizens’ rights across the board.

“I hope that the city council will respond positively to our lawyer’s letter today and avoid the need for court, but there may be little choice. If the judicial review goes ahead then Shelter Scotland will ask the court to declare that Glasgow City Council are acting unlawfully and that they should prepare and submit to Scottish Ministers a revised homelessness strategy that puts a plan in place to guarantee temporary accommodation for every homeless person that needs it.”

The charity is asking the public to become part of any action by signing a petition to demonstrate to the council that they cannot continue to ignore their legal obligations to its citizens and by donating to a crowdfunding campaign to help fund its fight for housing rights in Scotland.

Tam Lyon, who himself has experience of the transformative benefit a home and good support makes to people rebuilding their lives after homelessness, was one of the delegation that delivered today’s lawyer’s letter to the council.

He said: “I know how difficult it is to get the support you need when you are dealing with homelessness. Simple things like where to stay that night become impossible and it is easy to think nobody cares. It is a scandal that Glasgow City Council has been able to get away with this for so long, but the harsh reality is that they think nobody will do anything about it.

“That’s why I am asking the people of Glasgow to show their support. Anyone can become homeless because of debt, losing your job or becoming disabled and we all need to know that when we need it most, there is somewhere we can go. Please donate to the crowdfund campaign, sign the petition and tell Glasgow City Council to stop breaking the law.”

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