South Ayrshire sees drop in homelessness numbers
New figures obtained by The Salvation Army have revealed a drop in the number of people experiencing homelessness in South Ayrshire.
The figures, which were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, indicate that in 2018/2019 there were 1008 residents in temporary accommodation in South Ayrshire. Whereas in 2019/2020, this dropped to 1,002.
In 2020/21, there were 953 registered homeless in South Ayrshire. At the time of the Salvation Army’sFOI in 2021, the figure stood at just 445.
While the drop in figures has been welcomed, concerns have been voiced that the number could rise again if cuts to benefits and the rising costs of living begin to take their toll on individuals in the area.
The Scottish Government has launched a public consultation to find ways to tackle the issue, the Ayrshire Post reports.
Ayr MSP Siobhian Brown said: “When we think of homelessness, we often think about those living on the street. However, that’s not what these figures represent. Homelessness can take many forms. From those living in temporary accommodation to those living in B&Bs and those living with others.
“The overall trend does appear to be that of a reduction of the numbers in temporary accommodation, which is welcome because people experiencing homelessness often have multiple complex needs for which they receive little or no support. Whilst these figures are welcome news, I worry that numbers will go up again. The cost of living for many has increased. Food, energy and fuel prices have rocketed because of Brexit and then there are the cuts to Universal Credit.”
Ms Brown is asking the public to make sure their voices are heard in the consultation.
In a direct appeal, she said: “Now we need you to have your say on the Scottish Government’s consultation, which is proposing legal duties for public bodies.
“For example, health and social care services, children’s services, police and other public bodies will have a legal duty to ‘ask and act’ to prevent homelessness. The measures would be part of new laws aimed at preventing homelessness, based on recommendations from an expert group convened by the charity Crisis at the request of the Scottish Government.
“They would represent the biggest change to Scotland’s homelessness legislation in almost a decade.”
Malcolm Page, assistant director of homelessness services for The Salvation Army, commented: “We welcome the work being done by the Scottish Government through its Ending Homelessness Together: High Level Action Plan and we recognise that it has invested in homelessness services over the years. However, unless local authorities are able to invest in ‘move on’ accommodation through their rapid rehousing transition plans, there is just nowhere for people to go.
“Living in temporary accommodation like a B&B can start to eat away at your physical and mental health. Spending long periods without anywhere to cook, wash or properly relax makes it very difficult to hold a job down, keep in good physical health and start rebuilding your life.
“These are places that are meant to be a short-term fix to prevent people from sleeping on the streets, not as long-term solutions. Bed and breakfast type accommodation is often provided without the essential support we believe is required to address the deep-rooted and often complex issues that result in people becoming homeless.”
South Ayrshire Council said it is “committed” to ensuring homelessness is prevented where possible and “suitable accommodation, advice and support are available” where it cannot be avoided.