Homelessness in Scotland is obscene blasts church and charity leader

Web 2000 homeless man on street

The new Church of Scotland moderator and charity founder says situation is a “damning indictment” on the country

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17th May 2016 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

The level of homelessness in Scotland is “obscene” a prominent charity and Church of Scotland leader has blasted.

Rev Dr Russell Barr, the incoming moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and founder of Edinburgh-based homelessness charity Fresh Start, said the amount of people living without safe and secure accommodation was a “damming indictment” on the country.

The 62-year-old announced he plans to use his new higher profile as the Church’s ambassador to tackle the issue and immediately demanded the Scottish Government delivers on its promise to build at least 50,000 more affordable homes over the next five years.

“Homelessness is a damning indictment on modern society,” he said.

Homelessness is a damning indictment on modern society

“It is a disgrace and should not happen in the UK which is the fifth richest economy in the world.

“We worry about health and education and one of the best ways to improve standards is to ensure that people are properly and safely accommodated.

“Tackling the obscenity of homelessness must be a key priority for the Scottish and UK governments because if you believe in a progressive, modern Scotland you must make sure that people are properly housed.

“The government in Scotland must keep its promises and deliver on pledges to build more affordable homes."

Official statistics show that 35,764 homeless applications were made to local authorities across Scotland in 2014-15.

Since then demand for homeless shelters provided by Glasgow City Mission and the Bethany Christian Trust has risen by 94% in Glasgow and 38% in Edinburgh.

Dr Barr formed Fresh Start in 1999 after meeting a homeless man who had been allocated a flat but could not afford to buy cutlery, crockery, pots and pans or bed linen.

He says reducing the level of homelessness would help drive up health and education standards.

“Meeting this chap was a lightbulb moment and I realised we had to do something really practical,” he continued.

“He needed help to turn that flat into a home because what he had in the street beside him was all that he had in the world.”

Over the last 16 years Fresh Start has distributed several tens of thousands of starter and food packs and helped people renovate over 1,000 flats.

It employs 18 people, provides food and offers cookery classes and lessons on budgeting and growing fruit and vegetables to people in need.