New initiatives to tackle homelessness in Edinburgh

Document spells out housing challenge

Thursday, 17th September 2020, 7:30 am
Kate Campbell says new ideas are essential for tackling the problem

NEW initiatives to tackle Edinburgh’s homelessness problem will see a new prevention fund to provide immediate crisis support, a central hub for young people needing help and psychologists based in homeless hostels.

The council also wants to boost its supply of temporary furnished flats and support more people into home shares as part of a longer-term goal of ending the use of B&Bs.

The moves are included in the city’s new homelessness policy document which will be debated by councillors tomorrow.

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There were 3,355 households assessed as homeless, or threatened with homelessness in the Capital in 2019/20, a rise of five per cent on the previous year.

And there were 1,868 homeless households in temporary accommodation.

But Edinburgh has one of the lowest proportions of social housing in Scotland and there was an average of 203 bids for every property advertised for rent in 2019/20.

Housing convener Kate Campbell said: “This document shows us, in very stark terms, the scale of the challenge that we face. But it is also an opportunity to focus on innovation and there are some incredibly exciting projects within it that show our steadfast intent to tackle homelessness at its root.

“We know the challenges we face – only 15 per cent social housing compared to a Scottish average of 24 per cent, alongside the most expensive private rents in Scotland.

“We have the largest council house building programme in Scotland which will address some of the housing need in Edinburgh. But we know we need to keep working to support people out of homelessness, and to prevent it in the first place.

“So we must set our sights high and never stop working to come up with new ideas and approaches to tackle one of the biggest challenges we face as a city.”

The initiatives proposed in the document include a Youth Housing Hub, which would be a centrally located service where young people could get support, homeless assessments, advice and accommodation.

It also suggests a pilot for a new homelessness prevention scheme, which would identify trigger points that may put someone at risk of homelessness in the future.

It proposes a prevention fund to be accessed quickly by frontline workers to draw down small amounts of money to provide immediate support to prevent someone reaching crisis-point

And another pilot project would base specialist psychologists within homelessness hostels, embedding expert medical advice in the accommodation people are staying in to support with mental wellbeing and treatment.

The council also aims to increase the amount of Rapid Access Accommodation - a service which is accessed directly from the street, does not have a curfew or a time limit for stays and which provides on-site support.

It is hoping to move the charity-run emergency care shelter into alternative premises where social distancing is easier.

And it plans to spot purchase private properties and continuing to work with short-term let landlords to rent homes to the council, as well as boost the council’s supply of temporary furnished flats and increase the use of home shares to reduce the use of B&Bs.

The council already has a target of building 20,000 affordable homes by 2027.

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