Councillors will investigate improving safety for people in temporary accommodation after a woman spoke out about “abysmal, terrifying conditions”.
Members of Edinburgh City Council’s housing and economy committee agreed to continue its homelessness taskforce and look at measures that could be introduced to ensure people staying in temporary accommodation were safe.
Each evening in Edinburgh, 650 households stay in temporary bed and breakfast accommodation, including 75 families.
Evan, from homeless action group A-Team, spoke about her personal experience of living in temporary accommodation.
She said: “The bed and breakfast environment is unhealthy – rampant drug use is allowed to take place.
“We would like to see the well-being and safety taken seriously – health and safety needs to be priority number one.”
Evan, who did not want her full name to be used for personal reasons, said drug taking in temporary accommodation had hit “epidemic proportions”.
She added: “It’s a chronic problem and they do not feel safe. I have met several others who have experienced the same thing as I have.
“Everyone is left to their own devices. I was moved into a room and there was blood splattered on the walls.
“I have been living for almost a year-and-a-half in these abysmal, terrifying conditions. I have had inappropriate things said to me.
“I had someone try to break into my room and was taken away by police. There needs to be a safe refuge for women only. I cannot be the only person in my situation.
“If I had been placed in safe accommodation, I would probably have a job by now. If I had been housed in a safe place, I would probably be out of the system.”
Council officers said the extreme anti-social behaviour was “not something that is regularly fed back” and that incidents were “incredibly rare”.
Cllr Cameron Rose said: “I know in my experience that this is a case in a number of bed and breakfasts.
“I think everyone recognises it’s a significant problem that needs dealing with.”
The council agreed the recommendations of the homelessness taskforce, which include making funding available in order for people staying in temporary accommodation to access kitchens to prepare their own food and use of washing machines.
A rating system for B&Bs used as temporary accommodation will also be introduced.
Housing and economy committee convener, Cllr Kate Campbell, said: “There is a recognition from everyone that we need to work towards finding more suitable accommodation for everyone. I’m going to make a suggestion that we include safety as something the taskforce will look at.
“It’s a big task to solve all of the issues and it’s something we cannot do overnight. It’s about improving service. Access to the kitchen and washing machines is very important to people in bed and breakfasts.”
Cllr Gordon Munroe asked whether companies that make “huge profits” from accommodation could contribute to upgrading facilities used as temporary accommodation and training costs.
Cllr Susan Rae said: “The people are there to run B&Bs. They are not there to run homeless accommodation.
“I think we cannot expect people who run hotels or B&B accommodation to be trained to look after vulnerable people. That’s not their job.”
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