AN EXTRA £1 million per year is set to be ploughed into a homeless fighting fund to combat soaring demand for housing services in Edinburgh.
Under new legal moves driven through at Holyrood, the city must now find “settled accommodation” for anyone stranded on the street through no fault of their own.
The changes mean homes for an additional 500 people in Edinburgh will have to be found with many having to stay in B&Bs – and even private holiday flats – due to the strain on the city’s stretched social housing stock.
It is thought these “unintentionally homeless people” will spend an average of 95 days in temporary accommodation each year which, based on B&B costs, will hit council coffers to the tune of £1.045m.
An extra £936,000 had been set aside, but another £109,000 will have to be found this year. It is hoped that by focusing on preventing homelessness, the bill can be driven down in coming years. Previously, only homeless people classed as “priority need” were eligible meaning healthier single adults did not always qualify.
City housing leader Cammy Day admitted the new legislation has caused a huge headache amid multi-million-pound budget cuts.
He said: “We have a real pressure on accommodation in Edinburgh, this new legislation has added to that.
“We’ve had to procure holiday flats and B&Bs to put people in because we haven’t got enough of our own temporary accommodation. It’s costing the authority a lot more money. You won’t put families in B&Bs so we have to procure short-term flats to put people in because we haven’t got enough of our own stock.
“It’s fair that we try to challenge the pressures with homelessness, how we resource that is becoming a real problem which is why we’re having to realign our services to be more preventative.”
In a radical bid to tackle the problem, counsellors will be deployed to mediate disputes between young people (aged 16-25) and their parents at an early stage.
Mairi Keddie, the council’s planning, partnership and commissioning manager, said: “What we are working on is services that prevent homelessness.
“Rather than someone become homeless, have a homelessness assessment, go into temporary accommodation, find settled accommodation, actually the better thing for everybody concerned is if we can prevent that homelessness in the first place.
“One of the big things we are looking at is to free up money to look at a mediation service.
“That would work with parents and children but also landlords and tenants. There is a significant number of young people who present as homeless. Mediation can prevent them from leaving in the first place or maybe a break in temporary accommodation can build a relationship back up.
“Apart from where there are safety issues – abuse or that type of thing – by and large when it is safe for someone to be in their family home that’s a better place for them to be.”
Single people or couples who are put up in two-bed flats will receive the discretionary housing payment so that they are not hit with the bedroom tax, adding to pressure on council budgets.
One of the measures to be introduced as part of the revamp of housing advice and homelessness support services is a counselling service which will target 18 to 25-year-olds whose relationship with their parents has broken down.
The service, which is likely to be commissioned from the voluntary sector, could also seek to house young people with grandparents or other family members, before they become homeless and could be in place by September next year.
Girls endure a night out for charity
DOZENS of people swapped the comfort of their beds for sleeping bags and layers of clothing as they took part in a sponsored Sleep Out to highlight the plight of homeless young people.
Anne Kerr and Alison Ingles were among those joining in the Rock Trust’s annual event at Festival Square, aiming to raise £15,000.
Some 27 staff from Taylor Wimpey also took part. Peter Matthews, managing director for Taylor Wimpey East, said: “Sleeping rough is the reality that thousands of young homeless people face on a regular basis, and through our support of this event we get an insight into what homeless youngsters experience, which makes us even more committed to supporting the Rock Trust.”