Members of expert group on homelessness revealed as work begins in earnest

The Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group
The Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group

A panel of homelessness experts from across Scotland met for the first time on Thursday as work to address the challenges of rough sleeping, and how temporary accommodation can best be utilised, officially got underway.

Announced as part of the Programme for Government last month, the short-term Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group came together with the immediate task of outlining urgent recommendations to minimise rough sleeping this winter.

The group, which draws on expertise from across the sector, will examine how the Scottish Government’s commitment to end rough sleeping can be achieved and how best a new £50 million fund can support this.

Membership of the Action Group includes:

  • Jon Sparkes, chief executive, Crisis (chair)
  • Russell Barr, former moderator, Church of Scotland
  • Maggie Brunjes, Glasgow Homelessness Network
  • Mike Dailly, Govan Law Centre
  • David Duke, Street Soccer Scotland
  • Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Heriot Watt University
  • Josh Littlejohn, Social Bite
  • Lorraine McGrath, Simon Community Scotland/Street Wise
  • Susanne Miller, Glasgow City Council
  • John Mills, Fife Council & ALACHO
  • Shona Stephen, Queens Cross Housing Association
  • Alison Watson, Shelter Scotland
  • Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “The Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group will be recommending immediate steps we can take to minimise rough sleeping, both this winter and for good, as well as ways to transform temporary accommodation.

    “The members bring a wide range of expertise, experience and enthusiasm and I know they will provide invaluable advice. The group will be engaging with all partners who deal with homelessness, including in local authorities and the third sector, so we can harness the wealth of knowledge available.

    “We are committed to ending rough sleeping, preventing homelessness, and transforming outcomes for those who experience it. The action group and the new £50m fund are important steps in achieving this.”

    Homelessness Action Group 2Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis and chair of the new action group, added: “I am delighted to be working with such a dedicated and knowledgeable group of people who have the common goal of ending homelessness in Scotland. Today, our focus is on action that can be taken this winter to support as many rough sleepers as possible so that fewer people have to face the coldest months of the year without a roof over their heads.

    “The Scottish Government has set us an ambitious goal but I am confident that with the invaluable experience of this group, combined with the views of people who have experience of homelessness, we can and will make all forms of homelessness a thing of the past.”

    Commenting on the start of work by the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, Alison Watson, deputy director of Shelter Scotland and member of the action group, said: “Shelter Scotland has been campaigning for the last year for renewed focus and leadership on homelessness and we are pleased to be able to share our experiences and knowledge with the action group.

    “The challenges facing us are significant. Last year, a household became homeless every 19 minutes in Scotland and tomorrow morning more than 6,000 children will wake up without a permanent home of their own. There has been a rise in people sleeping on our streets.

    “The need for action is urgent and we look forward to working with the new group to quickly deliver changes on the ground to see improved support for those currently enduring or at risk of homelessness.”

    David Duke, a formerly homeless man who went on to set up Street Soccer Scotland, will also join the industry experts to sit on the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group.

    Mr Duke said: “As temperatures plunge in the coming weeks, rough sleepers will be battered by rain, wind and almost freezing temperatures. They will be losing all hope.

    “The members of the action group, through the decisions we make today and in months to come, have the potential to change their lives – to save their lives. Not only that, we have the power to ensure that no one is forced to endure the trauma of homelessness in the future.”

    He added: “I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the action group and drive real change. The government has already committed £50m over five years towards this which must be used to prevent homelessness happening, and when it does happen, ensure there are adequate safety nets in place, like high quality temporary accommodation and a clear path towards a tenancy to get people back on their feet as soon as possible.”

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