MSPs recommend permanent homes for Edinburgh’s homeless

A ''homeless person sits on the Royal Mile. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
A ''homeless person sits on the Royal Mile. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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A BOLD new approach to homelessness was recommended by MSPs today after they took evidence about the depth of the problem in the Capital.

Holyrood’s local government committee said Scotland should adopt a “Housing First” policy, skipping B&Bs and temporary accommodation to give people a permanent home as quickly as possible.

Bob Doris. Picture: John Devlin

Bob Doris. Picture: John Devlin

The proposal came after committee members saw how the policy brought down homelessness figures in Finland.

The model, which has also been piloted in a few areas in Scotland, recognises many homeless people have other complex needs but sees their primary requirement as stable housing and goes on to provide support services once that is established.

The committee report said: “In Finland, the Housing First approach is delivering long- term sustainable reductions in the levels of homelessness.

“This approach provides wrap-around services to each individual which not only provides housing but also addresses the other issues which can lead to homelessness, such as medical and psychological support. We recommend that a Scottish-style Housing First approach is implemented in Scotland.”

Last month, campaigners demonstrated outside a B&B in Leith where families were expected to live five to a room with a shared toilet, broken furniture and filthy mattresses.

The committee’s year-long inquiry heard that welfare reform and the benefit cap were leading to an increase in homelessness and Edinburgh’s acute shortage of affordable housing put extra pressure on temporary accommodation.

And the Cyrenians told the MSPs 800 families in the Capital were affected by the benefit cap which meant people previously able to maintain a home suddenly found themselves hundreds of pounds short for rent each month and could end up homeless. Across Scotland there were 34,864 homeless applications made 
12 months and 6581 children were in temporary accommodation.

Committee convener Bob Doris said: “We know there is no quick-fix solution to eradicating homelessness.

“After hearing directly from people who are homeless and those who have experienced sleeping on the streets or sofa-surfing, as well as service
providers on the front-line, it was clear further action is needed.

“That’s why our committee has recommended the Scottish Government learns from Finland and rolls out a Scottish version of Housing First, as a part of a potential solution to addressing homelessness.

“Housing is a basic human right and everyone should have a roof over their head. We hope these recommendations will go some way to ensuring that becomes the reality for more people in future.”