Edinburgh homeless numbers hit new low

There are still many people sleeping rough in Edinburgh. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
There are still many people sleeping rough in Edinburgh. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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THE number of people registered as homeless in the Capital has hit a new low.

Applications to the city council in 2012-13 totalled 4267 – down from 4448 over the ­previous 12 months and 5148 in 2007-08.

City leaders have welcomed the 17 per cent drop and attributed it to improved prevention, information and support services, which they said meant residents were able to resolve housing issues without losing their homes.

But campaigners warned against complacency and stressed there was a still a huge amount of work needed to address the problem of hidden homelessness.

Ewan Aitken, chief executive at charity Cyrenians, said: “Any drop is welcome but it’s still 12 people presenting every day over the year and it does not include those who face sofa-surfing, who are sleeping rough or those keeping a roof over their heads by going to food banks or not switching on the heating – and those are just some examples.

“To deal with this you clearly need more housing, jobs that are not on low wages – and you need to deal with the cost of housing in Edinburgh.

“The cost of rents in the private sector is going through the roof. Welfare reform is bringing more disaster.”

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “A 17 per cent reduction in people going through the crisis of homelessness is good news and we congratulate the city council for their continued prevention work in this area.

“There is no room for complacency. We remain concerned about the underlying causes of homelessness set against a background of the cost of living crisis and welfare cuts, and we need to ensure the housing safety net is protected.”

While welcoming signs that a focus on homelessness prevention was bearing fruit, opposition politicians ­questioned whether there had been a significant reduction in actual incidence.

Councillor Steve Burgess, housing spokesman for Edinburgh’s Greens, said: “These figures cover a period of ­economic downturn and the early bite of welfare cuts so I don’t think anyone believes that the real level of homelessness is down.

“What Edinburgh has been doing is investing more in prevention of homelessness and where that has genuinely headed off a crisis that is very welcome.

“However, if it has simply diverted homeless people away from help, leaving them to struggle on their own, then that will come back to haunt the council.

“So I want to know what lies behind those trends.”

Housing chiefs insisted the trend in homelessness across Edinburgh was downward.

Councillor Cammy Day, housing leader, said: “I hope we see that continuing over the next few years and I would put it down to the great partnership that we have with the voluntary sectors.”