A See Me campaign is needed to transform perceptions of homelessness

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A charity has called for a “national conversation” to address attitudes to the causes and realities of homelessness

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28th February 2019 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Homelessness in Scotland needs the equivalent of the See Me campaign – which has been successful in tackling public perception of mental health issues.

A charity has called for a “national conversation” to address attitudes to the causes and realities of homelessness.

Homeless Action Scotland (HAS) highlighted studies that show that while the public are mainly sympathetic to homeless people, they see it a product of individual failure rather than a result of poverty and lack of opportunity.

People often see homelessness and rough sleeping as the same thing rather than the latter being a subset of the former.

It is calling for an intervention along the same lines as the successful See Me mental health campaign.

HAS, which represents voluntary sector organisations, local authorities and housing associations, said that the progress to tackle homelessness was being damaged by outdated views.

Chief executive Gavin Yates told the National Homelessness Conference in Edinburgh today that: “The Scottish Social Attitudes Study in 2006 found that 45% of respondents agreed with the statement: “Most homeless people could find somewhere to live if they really tried.” While I think some progress has been made most people still think that homelessness is a result of bad choices rather than the real causes which often include poverty and neglect.

“The excellent work that Crisis did with the FrameWorks Institute in 2017 and 2018 showed that changing the public’s attitude towards the drivers of homelessness was key to ending it.

“Whilst elements of the body politic believe that homelessness is an inevitability then things won’t change.

“The excellent work being done in Scotland by government, councils and voluntary sector agencies is in danger of being undermined by outdated attitudes. This needs to change.”

He added that the See Me campaign was instrumental in changing attitudes to mental health and people are now more open about talking about their experiences and fears.

Yates said there must be a push to make the public understand that homelessness in all of its forms is not a result of bad choices or bad luck it is a direct consequence of social policy.

He added: “It is clear that to end homelessness we need investment in new homes, a humane benefits system, a health system focused on prevention and an education system geared to success for all. For that to happen the public need to insist on it.

“My message is there’s no time like the present to actually kick this campaign off.

“It’s clear that no one group can successfully make the difference needed and what we need is a coalition for change. Let’s start that coalition today.”

Kevin Stewart, minister for housing, said: “I believe it is imperative we shift the national conversation to address the stigma of homelessness by highlighting the true root causes, such as poverty.

“This will help support a change in public perceptions, away from stigmatising people, and it will ensure we all focus on finding and implementing solutions that really work. Our aim is to help individuals secure a settled home, and make the changes that will stop homelessness from happening in the first place.”