Homeless charity calls for ‘urgent’ national rough sleeping audit

homeless EdinburghScotland’s homelessness membership organisation Homeless Action Scotland has called for a national audit of rough sleeping as it released new recommendations around health and multiple exclusion homelessness.

The charity, which has voluntary organisations, local authorities and registered social landlords as part of its membership, said an urgent update is needed to the last national audit of rough sleeping which was completed almost 15 years ago.

The call, ahead of the first meeting of the Scottish Government’s Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group aims to ensure a strong evidence base for the scale of the problem.

Homeless Action Scotland chief executive, Gavin Yates, said: “We welcome the new focus on homelessness and rough sleeping and hope to see real progress made over the coming weeks and months. However, we contend it is essential that we get a real idea of the scale of the issue.

“For too long the narrative was that rough sleeping and homelessness was diminishing, when organisations on the ground have been telling us the opposite. The First Minister made it clear in her Programme for Government that she saw that the numbers were going the wrong way. We welcome this but now call to go forward and get an accurate count of rough sleepers in Scotland based upon a solid methodology.

“Without knowing where we are it is difficult to assess how long a journey we are embarking upon.

“Our briefing also makes a number of other key recommendations around health and multiple exclusion homelessness including a new HEAT target specifically aimed at reducing known triggers for homelessness around mental health provision.

“The aim of ending rough sleeping is shared by everyone in Scotland but simply moving people from the streets to night shelters or B&B’s or other unsuitable temporary accommodation is not going to be a sufficient response to this problem for a proud, modern nation like ours.”

From its evidence, Homeless Action Scotland also asks for a renewed focus on eradicating rough sleeping from Scotland’s streets with an aim that all rough sleeping is ended by 2022.

The charity has also called for:

  • a robust and regular national count of rough sleeping using an agreed methodology for all Scotland, independent of the HL1 data.
  • third sector partners to be able to input data regarding rough sleeping to the HL1 in order to ensure consistent, accurate data for strategic planning and delivery. In addition, closer scrutiny is required for those local authorities that that report low/no rough sleeping to ensure policies and protocols are consistently applied across Scotland.
  • the Scottish Government to develop a work stream dedicated to looking at multiple exclusion homelessness as part of its work in prevention of homelessness, and to make a particular focus on women’s experience of homelessness as a strand of this work.
  • Health and Social Care and other statutory partners to take a larger role in tackling homelessness, with particular reference to the health outcomes of rough sleepers by preventing rough sleeping and improving mental health.
  • a HEAT target to be set that focuses on greater cross delivery of services for multiple exclusion/complex needs homelessness (possibly with specific links to reduction in A&E and emergency psychiatric care use by homeless people).
  • the aims and outcomes of the Scottish Housing Regulator’s intervention with regard to Glasgow to be publically known and published annually.
  • hidden homelessness and women’s homelessness to be better monitored in order to target early intervention and prevention as part of local housing strategies.
  • European/other funding streams to be explored in order to assist homeless migrants improve access to services.
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