Charity warns scotgov and local councils of Christmas homelessness hike

Nathanael Williams

Winter homeless shelters expect huge increase

SHELTER Scotland has demanded more action from the Scottish Government and local councils on homelessness on and off the streets of Scotland.

The call comes after data revealed a jump in the number of people needing assistance as winter shelters brace themselves for a busy holiday period.

Visiting Holyrood yesterday (6 December), the housing charity focused on what it called the “disgrace” of homeless children at Christmas and to urge MSPs to sign up to its #FarFromFixed campaign.

“We are one of the richest nations in the world, yet nearly 30,000 households became homeless last year.” Adam Lang

Adam Lang, head of policy and communications at Shelter Scotland, said: “It’s shameful that each year there are thousands of people sleeping rough on our streets, that there are thousands more hidden homeless people sofa surfing with friends and that on Christmas morning this year more than 5,000 children in Scotland will wake up homeless in temporary accommodation.

“We are outside the Scottish Parliament to highlight the plight of homeless children at Christmas and urge MSPs to sign up to our campaign aimed at finally fixing the human tragedy of homelessness. Frankly, we think it’s a disgrace that homelessness still exists in Scotland today. We are one of the richest nations in the world, yet nearly 30,000 households became homeless last year.”

According to Shelter Scotland, 20,882 calls were made to its national helpline in the last year which represents a rise of 6 per cent from 2014 to 2015. Online visits to its advice web page rose to a peak of 726,000 in the same period.

The charity has said that more than 5,200 children will wake up homeless this Christmas in Scotland and the figure of 30,000 households made homeless last year does not look like it will dip.

Groups such as the Glasgow Winter Night Shelter (GWNS) and Glasgow City Mission (GCM) try to give basic emergency accommodation to people who have nowhere to sleep as temperatures drop. Last year GWNS helped 605 people on 4,060 occasions – a 94 per cent increase on the previous year.

Lang, speaking in front of the Scottish Parliament alongside SNP MSP James Dornan, added: “We know that times are tough for more and more people because we see it every day – with more calls to our free national helpline, dozens of people using our digital chat service and thousands of visits to our online advice pages.

“It’s clear from these increasing numbers of people needing help that we are still failing far too many people in our society, particularly the most vulnerable, with the most basic of human rights – the right to shelter and a home.

“It is now time for local and national government to take bold action to tackle the tragedy of homelessness head-on.”

The Scottish Government this year committed to a house building programme of 50,000 houses in the next parliament with 35,000 reserved for social rent.

Picture courtesy of J Dornan

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