Janet Haugh, our Chief Executive comments on recent headlines about homelessness in Scotland.
Homelessness has been a hot topic in the news in recent days with Edinburgh becoming the first local authority in Scotland to officially declare a housing emergency, while Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner has reported that housing children in temporary accommodation violates their human rights and exacerbates trauma.
Sadly, these headlines are not an exaggeration, but instead a very real, and very depressing picture of homelessness in Scotland. Homelessness is at an all time high, we are a country in crisis when it comes to the number of people seeking accommodation. Every single day, 45 children become homeless in Scotland with Scottish Government figures showing that 16,262 children were believed to be homeless in Scotland between 2022-23. This is a 10% increase on the previous year.
Dealing with homelessness is complex, which of course adds to the difficulty in reducing the staggeringly high numbers of people who have no safe place to call home. A common misconception is that homelessness is just about rough sleepers, but it covers a whole multitude of individuals who find themselves in challenging and difficult circumstances, and ultimately with nowhere to live and separated from the people they love. Addressing the issue for anyone in this situation is not just simply putting a roof over someone’s head, it’s about providing a safe and supportive environment, which in turn gives them the opportunity to realise their potential.
Unfortunately, many forms of temporary accommodation don’t do that, especially for children and young people. The recent Children’s Commissioner’s report details temporary accommodation for children which includes hostels, B&Bs, cruise ships and barges because there is simply no other option available.
The reality is that temporary accommodation is sometimes the least bad option, but housing people on ships and barges is without doubt isolating and traumatic and feeds into the vicious cycle of repeat homelessness. Our charity exists to not only help those who find themselves homeless, but to try and prevent it happening in the first place, and reduce the number of people who face repeated homelessness. Our experience shows that providing emotional and practical support, alongside safe accommodation, is the first crucial step in helping people feel secure and allows them to have an equal chance in life.
When homelessness does occur, we believe it should be brief, rare, and unrepeated. Last year, Right There supported 2,388 people from our ‘In the Community’ programme across Scotland to allow them to keep, and flourish in their own home. In Edinburgh alone this resulted in 95% of people not repeating homelessness within a year. Our work makes a lasting difference, offering a lifeline for those who are isolated with little around them.
It can’t be overstated that Scotland has a homelessness crisis, and we need to be doing far more to prevent the trauma of homelessness. Living this way is not the reality we want anyone to ever face.
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