Vital services to close as homeless funds slashed

Streetwork is closing its night service for homeless people at its Holyrood Road crisis centre. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Streetwork is closing its night service for homeless people at its Holyrood Road crisis centre. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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VITAL services to tackle homelessness in Edinburgh are being closed or cut back, raising fears that more people will be left sleeping on the streets.

The city council has slashed about £200,000 of funding for homelessness organisation Streetwork, which has contracts from the authority to run a rough sleeping crisis centre and a support service for vulnerable people at risk of becoming homeless.

Now Streetwork has closed the night service at the crisis centre in Holyrood Road and is making several staff redundant. Professionals in the field predicted an increase in people becoming homeless and more people sleeping rough.

One MSP said the changes were “hugely concerning” and would probably end up costing more to the public purse.

The council’s finance committee has approved a 13.5 per cent reduction in Streetwork’s funding from £1.5 million to £1.3m.

In a briefing document for staff, Streetwork said: “City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) are continuing to put pressure on budgets.

“The night service at the crisis centre we propose to close. The proposed closure has been discussed and agreed with CEC.”

The briefing adds that this will be the “least impactful” to service users whilst still reducing costs.

It said Visiting Housing Support the service which helps vulnerable people to keep their existing tenancies -–would operate as before, but “with a reduced staff complement”.

The briefing warned redundancies may be needed. “The areas which may be affected by possible redundancy are the two elements of the CEC contract – the crisis centre and Visiting Housing Support.”

One homelessness professional who has worked in Edinburgh for the past 15 years said: “This will mean more people on the streets. It will fuel the increase in the number of people sleeping rough.”

Lothian Tory MSP Gavin Brown said the night service was crucial: “While the council and others are doing all they can to prevent homelessness, the reality is there is still going to be a need for emergency help for people who through circumstances suddenly find themselves homeless in the middle of the night. In these situations, it’s no use saying ‘Come back and see us when the office opens at 9am’.”

And he said preventing homelessness among vulnerable people was also vital.

“You might save money one year, but it could end up costing you more money in the longer term.”

Housing convener Cammy Day said the crisis centre night service was not part of the charity’s work which the council had funded, adding: “Streetwork made an internal decision to restructure their organisation, quite separate from what the council funds.”