Charities warn: deadliest winter is coming for homeless


​Agencies unite to voice stark warning to politicians 

23rd October 2017 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

This winter could be the deadliest yet for homeless people, charities have warned.

More than 5,000 will spend this winter on the streets as charities warn not enough support is being made available.

Agencies claim the combination of six welfare payments into one, known as universal credit, is pushing more people into homelessness because there is a built-in six-week wait for the first payment.

The warning comes in reports sent by 65 charities, health groups and councils to Holyrood MSPs investigating homelessness.

The Scottish Parliament’s local government and communities committee is hearing evidence in a bid to tackle the problem and has found itself inundated with submissions. 

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “We are concerned that as winter nears, there could be more people rough sleeping on our streets fighting for their lives.

“It appears more are slipping through that safety net as cuts to vital local services bite.

“We want to see a permanent home for everyone who needs one, a strengthening of the housing safety net that catches people when they do lose their home, to ensure that vital local homelessness services are properly funded.”

Changes to the welfare system – which have sent rates of benefit sanctions and housing evictions soaring – are forcing people onto the streets.

Charity Crisis said there was an increase in numbers of people sleeping rough, particularly in the major cities in Scotland while Homeless Action Scotland warned of the “obvious rise in visible rough sleeping” and said several groups are creating “communities” of street-based homeless people.

It appears more are slipping through that safety net as cuts to vital local services bite - Graeme Brown

In Edinburgh, the charity said there has been an increase in groups of homeless EU nationals particularly Eastern Europeans.

Demand for Bethany Christian Trust’s care shelter in Edinburgh has risen in recent years with an average of 47 people per night staying during 2016/17 compared to 28 per night in 2011/12.

And Glasgow Homelessness Network, said rough sleeping had doubled in the past four years.

Director Margaret-Ann Brunjes said: “Rough sleeping is the most extreme form of homelessness and the devastating impact it has on people’s lives is well known.

“The prevailing view that ‘something’, however unsuitable, is better than ‘nothing’ is regularly challenged by people preferring to opt out of the system of accommodation, not because they want to sleep rough but because they believe it to be the best option available to them.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Our new Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group will look directly at how we transform the use of temporary accommodation and end rough sleeping.

“We are backing our ambition with a £50 million Ending Homelessness Together Fund to drive change and improvement.”