Housing and anti-poverty groups call for “decisive action” on homelessness in an open letter to the Scottish Government
TWELVE SCOTTISH organisations including Shelter Scotland and the Church of Scotland have formed a league calling for “decisive action” on homelessness following the death of a homeless man in Glasgow.
They wrote to the Scottish Government’s communities secretary Angela Constance and housing minister Kevin Stewart after holding a demonstration in Glasgow’s Trongate this week in which they cited the death of homeless man Matthew Bloomer, 28, as an example of the urgent action required to save lives.
This is the first time in over 20 years that such a unified front from a diverse range of civil society groups has demanded action on housing and challenged the government.
“We the undersigned are profoundly concerned by the current lack of political leadership and urgency in relation to tackling homelessness in Scotland today.”
The letter reads: “This was not the first such story and it will not be the last. It is a badge of shame that homelessness still exists in our society.
“We the undersigned are profoundly concerned by the current lack of political leadership and urgency in relation to tackling homelessness in Scotland today.
“Without decisive action, we are endangering the lives of a growing number of people forced to sleep rough on the streets of our towns and cities, and condemning many more individuals and families to a life in limbo, by forcing them to stay for increasing lengths of time in so-called temporary accommodation. There is now a real danger of squandering the legacy of Scotland’s world-leading 2012 commitment on homelessness – which gave everyone the right to a settled home.”
The letter was signed by Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, the Church of Scotland, Shelter Scotland, Positive Action in Housing, Cyrenians, Who Cares? Scotland, Simon Community, Streetwork, the Poverty Alliance, Legal Services Agency, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and the National Union of Students Scotland.
“Without decisive action, we are endangering the lives of a growing number of people forced to sleep rough on the streets of our towns and cities.”
Last September, Shelter Scotland launched its ‘Far from fixed’ campaign, an online campaign and petition to get members of the public and politicians in Scotland to sign up to a range of solutions they say could fix Scotland’s homelessness crisis.
By Shelter’s estimation, every 20 minutes a household in Scotland becomes homeless, which also means about 10,000 households end up living in temporary accommodation, among whom 5,000 are children.
Countering the criticism the Scottish Government has emphasised that it is putting more resources into tackling the number of young people, children and families in temporary accommodation. The number of people in Scotland assessed as homeless or under threat of being homeless went down by 5 per cent in 2015/16, official figures showed. However, there was a rise in the number of children in temporary accommodation.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are already taking action and working with local government and other partners to address Shelter’s main asks including more affordable housing.
“We have some of the strongest housing rights for homeless people in the world and will continue to work strategically across Government and with national partners, to tackle homelessness.”
“The last Labour led Scottish government brought in world leading legislation to tackle homelessness but standards have slipped since.” Alex Rowley
The group said priorities including closing the education attainment gap, improving health outcomes, eradicating child poverty and reducing reoffending are being undermined by the “failure to grasp the significance of preventing and tackling homelessness”.
A new national strategy involving local and national government would help tackle the root causes of the issue, the group argued.
Scottish Labour’s deputy leader and communities spokesperson Alex Rowley said: “This is a significant intervention which should focus minds in the SNP government. The government should now produce a national homelessness strategy as a matter of urgency. The last Labour led Scottish government brought in world leading legislation to tackle homelessness but standards have slipped since.
“We urgently need to build more homes, we have been consistent in calling on the government to put in place 32 local delivery partnerships to plan and deliver much needed house building.”
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