Impact of living in temporary accommodation laid bare in new report

Homelessness charity Crisis has called for a seven-day limit on the use of temporary accommodation in Scotland after new research revealed the detrimental impact it can have on the lives of homeless people.

The charity’s report charts the experience of 74 people living in B&Bs, hotels or unsupported hostels based in the six council areas with the worst record of long-term unsuitable temporary accommodation (UTA) placements - Aberdeenshire, Edinburgh, East Lothian, Glasgow, Highland and Midlothian.

Around 60% of those surveyed said they were subject to a curfew, while three in four said they were not allowed visits from family or friends. 84% of respondents said they felt isolated by their living situation and 45% said they had no access to a kitchen with over half of this number saying this meant they regularly skip a meal. A third of people also had no fridge access.

Katie, who is currently being supported by the Crisis Skylight team in Edinburgh, has been living in a bed and breakfast for over a year.

She said of her experience: “I ended up in a B&B with an 11pm curfew and you weren’t allowed any nights away. The landlord was very strict about that and I felt that he played god with it and I’d have to beg to have a night away.

“The room was horrible, there was blood on the walls and all sorts of stuff. It’s really depressing and you’re just stuck there and you don’t even have any cooking facilities all you’ve got a kettle and that’s it. So, when you’re on a budget, how can you eat properly? You can’t. and once you’re in you can’t just nip down to the shop or anything, or have people to visit and when you’re already low, and you’re at the lowest point in your life you want to be around people that love you.”

Crisis said these restrictions on everyday life are having a “devastating impact” on people’s state of mind with 88% of respondents experiencing depression because of their living conditions. Six out of ten people also reported a negative impact on their drug or alcohol use and 90% said they were uncertain about their future because of their situation.

The charity is calling on the Scottish Government to change the law in this parliamentary year so that there is a seven-day time limit on the use of UTA for all homeless people. Currently, there is a legal restriction of seven days for families and pregnant women, but no limit at all for anyone else experiencing homelessness. The Scottish Government has agreed accepted in principle that this law should be extended to all homeless people but have given no indication on when this will happen.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “Access to housing is a human right, yet this report shows that homeless people are being let down across Scotland, trapped in inhumane conditions for far too long. Lengthy stays in B&Bs, unsupported hostels or hotels are destructive, demoralising and stop people moving on with their lives.

“Scotland has often been a world-leader in tackling homelessness, including ending priority need in 2012. However, an unintended consequence of this has been an increase in the use of unsuitable forms of temporary accommodation. We know councils are working on rapid re-housing plans that will enable homeless people to be housed faster, but there must be a legal backstop which will restrict the use of unsuitable temporary housing to just seven days for everyone. This would prevent the current situation from ever happening again.”

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “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.

“We are investing £6.5 million to support a Housing First approach, which focuses on getting a person into settled accommodation first so they can then access support from the security of their own home.”

The full report ‘I won’t last long in here – experiences of unsuitable temporary accommodation in Scotland’ is available here.

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