Tomorrow councillors will discuss one of the biggest issues facing the city – ending homelessness.
At the end of last year, we set up a cross party Homelessness Task Force, which I chair. Last week we published a number of the outcomes in a report to be considered by the Housing and Economy Committee. These changes, if agreed when the committee meets tomorrow, will make an enormous difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in Edinburgh.
Ending the use of bed and breakfast accommodation completely is top of our list. The issue here though is the lack of affordable housing in the city. Although we have one of the most ambitious house building programmes in the UK it will take time for it to start to make a real difference.
In the meantime, it isn’t acceptable for us to be asking people to live in B&Bs without the facilities they need to meet their basic human needs.
So the task force recommendation is to change our contracts with providers. The new contracts will make sure that everyone has access to food storage, cooking facilities and access to a washing machine. To keep standards up, residents will also be able to rate the accommodation they are living in.
Some people, particularly those with multiple and complex needs, can find “the system” just too difficult to navigate. Since the end of last year, we’ve been working with the Scottish Government and Streetwork to develop a rapid access accommodation model.
Rapid access means high tolerance, harm reduction and no curfews. There aren’t forms to fill in before, you do everything once you are settled. The success rate for helping people to move off the streets has been really high and the task force members recognised how valuable this was. The recommendation is that the number of beds is increased as well, finding a more cost effective model for the future.
Looking after young people in the city who are homeless has to be a priority. We’re recommending that we take another look at finding alternative accommodation for 16 and 17-year-olds that would better suit their needs. This could be a young persons’ shared house, access to self-contained flats or a young persons’ supported unit.
It is also crucial that we’re joined up with other organisations in the city who are working hard to end homelessness in Edinburgh.
Money raised by Social Bite at Sleep in the Park has become available to provide support packages to homeless people with complex needs through Housing First.
This money is available for a two year period and allows us to provide packages of support. I’m confident we can initially support around 50 of the most vulnerable people in the city with a tenancy.
The Housing First model of support will mean that people who just wouldn’t be able to take on a tenancy will have the support they need to have a home. This will change lives.
So that homeless people can get quicker access to a permanent home, the EdIndex board has also agreed to provide an additional 275 homes for homeless people to access through the allocations process.
Since setting up the homelessness task force, we’ve made great strides in providing strategic direction for tackling homelessness in Edinburgh.
Tomorrow’s meeting holds the key to beginning to make real changes which will ultimately improve the quality of people’s lives.
Councillor Kate Campbell is housing and economy convener/homelessness champion at Edinburgh City Council