Everyone needs a safe, warm place they can call home. Home is more than a physical place to live. It’s where we feel secure, have roots and a sense of belonging. Home supports our physical and emotional health and wellbeing and to be without one seems unthinkable. Yet for too many people this is their reality as they face the blight of homelessness.
Over the past decade, local and national government in partnership with local authorities, the third sector and others have delivered radical changes in homelessness and affordable housing. Scotland already has some of the strongest rights in the world for people experiencing homelessness with everybody found to be homeless legally entitled to housing. Our focus on prevention through five regionally grouped Housing Options Hubs has contributed to a significant reduction in homelessness applications.
The Scottish Government has also taken concerted action on housing – ending the right to buy which will protect 15,500 homes over a decade, kick-started a new generation of council housing, and, since 2007, have delivered over 78,000 affordable homes. And in this parliamentary term, we are investing more than £3 billion to deliver at least 35,000 homes for social rent, as part of 50,000 affordable homes. This is an ambitious programme and one we are on target to reach. However, I know that people can still struggle to access the accommodation and housing, health and social care support they need during difficult and vulnerable points in their lives. In our work to build a Scotland where people are treated with fairness, dignity and respect, there is no place for homelessness or rough sleeping.
That’s why, just a year ago, I set out in the Programme for Government a renewed commitment to tackle homelessness, to end rough sleeping and to transform temporary accommodation. I established the short-term Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group to identify the actions needed to achieve these ambitions. And I pledged a £50 million fund to support homelessness prevention over the next five years.
In just over nine months, the Group heard from over 400 people with lived experience of homelessness. It listened to the views of those dedicated frontline staff who are working to prevent and respond to homelessness, every hour of every day. It drew on the national and international evidence of what works. And it worked with partners to develop 70 bold recommendations all with one focus – to ensure everyone has a home that meets their needs and homelessness is ended.
I thank the Group for their hard work and dedication and am pleased to say this Action Plan responds to all of their recommendations alongside a report on homelessness by the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee. Ending homelessness is a priority for the Scottish Government.
With a concerted effort towards a person-centred approach that focuses on prevention, alongside joined-up planning, quick and effective responses and rapid rehousing, we will end homelessness.
Email: Ruth Whatling