Scotland is in the grip of a homelessness crisis that is damaging the lives and opportunities of thousands of families with children and young people across every community in Scotland.
For decades the reality of our broken housing system has been obvious to those on the frontline. Too many people denied the means to keep the home they have and too few social homes to provide a secure, affordable, and stable future.
It is six years since the Scottish Government and COSLA convened the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group. Their Ending Homelessness Together plan set the goal of making homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring. It proposed transitioning to a Rapid Rehousing approach to reduce the need for temporary accommodation and the widespread adoption of Housing First for households with multiple and complex needs. These were seen as gamechangers and drew widespread support from across the frontline and Parliament.
The ambitions of that plan have not matched up to the realities on the ground.
Now in 2023 we have rising rough sleeping, record numbers of people trapped in the homelessness system for longer and the national scandal of nearly 10,000 children in temporary accommodation.
The combined impact of ongoing austerity, the global pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the associated cost of living crisis necessitated a new approach that could meet the needs of people on the ground.
Last year the Scottish Government- and COSLA-chaired Homelessness Prevention Strategy Group proposed the creation of a short-term Task and Finish Group with the remit to reduce both the number of people in temporary accommodation and the length of time people spend there.
We were both gratified to be invited to co-chair the group and undertook to engage as widely as possible. We heard directly from families and individuals trying to access homelessness services and housing in their community. We took representations from equalities groups, advice bodies and third sector organisations working every day on the frontline. Local Government leaders from rural and urban Scotland shared best practice and common challenges that they experience as the guardians of legal duties to homeless households.
What we found was that no matter where people find themselves in the system, the solutions are strikingly similar and straightforward. We need more homes; we need to use the homes we have more effectively and we need to fund services properly to treat people with dignity and respect.
If the solutions are simple, we recognise that they are not cheap. This report sets out the evidence and recommends what must be done. What the members of the Task and Finish group cannot do is choose to put the resources where they are needed to make it happen. That is a choice for our elected representatives and one that thousands of households currently waiting for a permanent home await with interest.
Co-Chairs of the Temporary Accommodation Task and Finish Group: Alison Watson, Director, Shelter Scotland and John Mills, Co-Chair of ALACHO and Head of Housing, Fife Council.
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