Edinburgh's homeless families sent 150 miles away for emergency accommodation in Inverness

Homeless people in Edinburgh seeking emergency accommodation are being sent more than 150 miles away, the Evening News can reveal.

People are being sent to hotels and other temporary accommodations outside the city from Stirling to Inverness, more than 150 miles from Edinburgh. Sources told the Evening News of shocking reports from people who have gone to the council for housing help being unable to get access to accommodation in the capital, including families with children.

The reports have laid bare the scale of the housing crisis amid fears more people are likely to become homelessness as the cost of living crisis bites. It follows warnings from Housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland that Scotland’s local authorities are running out of options to help people. The charity has said that the situation is the worst it has ever seen – with some local authorities even sending people to live in the North of England.

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Miles Briggs said the situation is a “reality check” and issued fresh calls for an emergency to be declared in the Capital. The Conservative MSP warned people are becoming stuck in the system with ‘no light at the end of the tunnel’.

Homeless person outside The Salvation Army Hostel at The Pleasance, Edinburgh (Photo: Ian Georgeson)

Reports of people being sent more than 150 miles outside the city emerged as figures published by the council showed the number assessed as being homeless or threatened with homelessness rose by almost a quarter in the 12 months to April this year. However, the number of lets to homeless households has fallen year on year since 2018 to a record low, according to separate figures released this week.

Only 494 homeless households were given permanent lets in 2020/2021 – the lowest since records began twenty years ago. Edinburgh has twice the national rate of households in temporary accommodation. Numbers on wait lists for social housing have also soared across the country in the past year, fuelling fears of a deepening crisis. The council said it has ‘no choice’ because of the lack of affordable accommodation in the city.

‘No light at the end of the tunnel’

Miles Briggs Lothian MSP said: “This has gone beyond crisis. We need to declare an emergency in Edinburgh housing now. It’s not right to split up families, send people away from their schools and lives here. It’s not a solution to disperse people and call on other parts of the country to provide accommodation. This is a reality check and a damning indictment of the chronic state of our lack of available housing.

Miles Briggs branded the reports a 'reality check'

"With emergency accommodation options at capacity it’s clear Edinburgh needs local solutions. All groups, homeless and those at risk of homelessness, are left with no light at the end of the tunnel once they are put in temporary accommodation. There are no permanent homes for them to move to. What’s happening is emergency accommodation is becoming permanent. This is totally unsustainable.”

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Mr Briggs added: “It’s deeply worrying to me that these problems I have raised for the past five years are only escalating. First, Ministers need to admit that there is a crisis and stop burying their heads in the sand. People should be acutely aware that the council can’t find a solution alone. It will take a multi-agency approach.”

‘We have no choice’

Housing, homelessness and fair work convener Cllr Jane Meagher said: “The stark facts are that we have an affordable housing crisis in Edinburgh. That’s the harsh truth however we’re committed to working with our partners and any organisation, including the Scottish Government, to try and resolve this.

“We don’t want to see anyone being placed in temporary accommodation, let alone outside Edinburgh, but at the moment we have no choice because of the lack of affordable accommodation in the city. Our priority is always to find good quality temporary accommodation for people when they become homeless during such a difficult time and I really sympathise with anyone whom we have had to accommodate out of the city.

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“Everyone has the right to live in a settled home but it is well known that the city faces significant housing pressures. We’re working hard to address this by building more social homes and controlling short term lets. We’re also trying to find new and innovative ways to provide more good quality temporary accommodation through our Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan.”

Around 70 per cent of council homes that become available for rent are let to homeless households as permanent housing, Councillor Meagher said. “However the best way to tackle homelessness is to prevent it from happening in the first place and we have invested significant resources into homelessness prevention services.”