Renewed commitment to ending homelessness
The coronavirus outbreak has had significant implications for people experiencing homelessness, particularly those who were rough sleeping. We acted quickly to move people off the streets and into a place of safety but our work is not over. The pandemic has shown us how important it is to have a home that is warm, safe and affordable.
No-one should have to sleep rough in Scotland.
In early June, I asked Jon Sparkes of Crisis to reconvene the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) to guide us on what we need to do now and in the future to end homelessness. The Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group (HPSG) met on Tuesday 14 July to discuss HARSAG’s report and recommendations.
HPSG members were united in their vision of a future where there is no need for night shelters; where people are not left destitute by design; where people are moved into their own home as soon as possible; and where homelessness duties are discharged in a way that advances equality.
I am very grateful to HARSAG members for their swift work, commitment to ending homelessness and expert guidance on navigating through this next phase. I was pleased to see that the recommendations build on the work initiated in our Ending Homelessness Together action plan, particularly the emphasis on prevention. The best solution to homelessness is to stop it happening in the first place.
The Scottish Government welcomes and accepts HARSAG’s recommendations in principle. We are already delivering on many of the recommendations that relate to the current public health emergency:
- We have provided over £1.5 million to third sector organisations to fund hotel accommodation for people who were rough sleeping.
- We have introduced legislation to protect renters from eviction.
- We have brought forward plans so that everyone experiencing homelessness has access to suitable quality accommodation.
- We have provided funds to prevent homelessness and destitution among people who have no recourse to public funds.
- We have supported local authorities with rapid rehousing transition plans so that ‘rapid rehousing by default’ is at the centre of their recovery plans.
But the population in hotels is not static and we recognise that some of HARSAG’s recommendations require more urgent action. For example, everyone in emergency accommodation needs a plan for moving on to more settled accommodation. I have asked my officials to prioritise this work and we will report back in the coming weeks.
While now is not the time to set out a detailed response to each recommendation, we are committed to publishing – with COSLA – a detailed action plan in response to all recommendations later this summer.
This next chapter to Ending Homelessness Together will be informed by the views of people with lived experience. We know that homelessness is more than rough sleeping alone and our updated action plan will therefore take full account of broader experiences and forms of homelessness.
Homelessness is not inevitable. By working together, we can solve it in Scotland.