Rise in homelessness sparks calls for housing associations to undertake assessments
Scotland’s housing sector has called for “radical change” to tackle homelessness after new figures revealed an increase in applications for homelessness assistance and households in temporary accommodation.
New statistics from the Scottish Government found that the number of applications for homelessness assistance in Scotland has increased by 2% since 2017.
Scottish councils received 18,486 applications for homelessness assistance during the six months between 1 April 2018 and 30 September 2018, 2% higher than the same period during 2017. This increase follows a period of decreasing numbers of applications from around 2010.
The figures also show that the number of households in temporary accommodation has increased by 0.5% and the number of children in temporary housing has increased by 4% to 6,826.
The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) said powers to undertake homelessness assessments should be extended to housing associations.
Sally Thomas, SFHA chief executive, said: “With nearly 18,500 people seeking homelessness support between April and September last year, these figures give a clear warning there is more work to be done to end homelessness in Scotland.
“The Housing Options approach has helped to manage the homelessness process, but we are yet to see real changes in the underlying drivers of homelessness.
“Providing more good quality, affordable homes is an important part of the solution, but it is not the only part. The figures revealing the time families are spending in temporary accommodation highlight that local authorities and partners need more resources to support people so that homelessness, if it can’t be prevented, is as brief as possible.
“SFHA is calling for a radical change in how we help people experiencing homelessness – so that there is ‘no wrong door’ – by extending powers to housing associations to undertake homelessness assessments and making additional resources available to help people in need.
“We are working closely with government and other stakeholders on this as part of implementing Rapid Rehousing and a range of other measures to eradicate homelessness.”
CIH Scotland said the increase in homelessness applications shows the need for continued investment in affordable housing supply.
National director Callum Chomczuk said: “This rise in the number of homelessness applications is a worrying development and highlights the need for continued investment in the supply of affordable housing in this Parliament and beyond.
“The transition to a rapid rehousing approach is a welcome move towards helping to eradicate homelessness in Scotland but we must ensure that there are enough homes available to prevent people, and particularly children, from spending long periods in temporary accommodation.
“That is why we need the Scottish Government to commit to continued investment in housing and a stretching target so that everyone has a warm, safe, affordable home.”
Shelter Scotland said “if the alarm bells weren’t already ringing in Holyrood they should be now”.
Director Graeme Brown added: “Homelessness in Scotland continues to increase – with even more children in homeless temporary accommodation than last year and people having to stay longer in temporary accommodation with their lives in limbo.
“And with hundreds of breaches of the unsuitable accommodation order and households being turned away from temporary accommodation they are entitled to thousands of times, it is clear there is a housing emergency in Scotland.
“This is more evidence that the good progress on homelessness we have seen in recent years is being eroded and homelessness is blighting the lives of even more people in Scotland – robbing them of their health, security and a fair chance in life.
“We know homelessness can’t be solved overnight and we welcome the recent focus on homelessness from the Scottish Government. But it is now time for urgent action from all areas of local and national government to work together better to tackle and prevent homelessness in Scotland.
“The upcoming budget should be seen as an opportunity for the Scottish Government to ensure councils are properly resourced to deal with this unacceptable rise in homelessness in Scotland.”