Kevin Stewart: A home for life, not just for Christmas

A year on from the publication of the Scottish Government’s Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan, housing minister Kevin Stewart reflects on the progress which Scotland has made.

Kevin Stewart

The festive period is often a reminder of the things we can take for granted: family and friendship, safety, warmth, and a place to call home.

In a country with some of the strongest homelessness rights in the world, it is unthinkable that anyone should be without a home, in temporary accommodation or worse still, sleeping rough. That’s why we’re taking major action to end homelessness and rough sleeping.

A year on from publishing our Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan is a good time to reflect on the progress we’ve made.

We are leading the way in our approach to tackle homelessness - investing £32.5 million to support local authorities prioritise settled accommodation for all.

Scotland is one of the first countries in the world to recognise the importance of making permanent accommodation the first response for people facing housing crisis.

That’s why we invested in the Housing First Pathfinder programme for those with complex needs, like mental health issues, drugs and alcohol addiction or history of trauma, including domestic abuse.

People receive settled accommodation as a priority, with the right support to keep their home. This breaks the cycle of repeat homelessness by tackling the root causes, supporting them settle into their home and integrate into communities.

The 173 Housing First placements so far are already a testament to the success of the programme. And we’re encouraging all local authorities to develop their own Housing First across Scotland through our rapid rehousing funding.

While temporary accommodation can offer an important safety net for anyone who finds themselves homeless in emergencies – and therefore must be in place - it should be purely temporary and of high quality.

So we’re changing legislation to make sure all homeless households will spend no longer than seven days in unsuitable accommodation such as B&Bs.

We want to prevent homelessness before it has a chance to happen, and we must design our systems across housing and wider public services to help those at risk.

For example, young people leaving care are some of the most vulnerable in our society and can be at high risk of homelessness. We want to reduce that risk which is why last month we published recommendations to improve support for care leavers.

We have also begun work with homelessness partners to support those experiencing domestic abuse, particularly how to safely keep women and children in their own homes if that is what they want. 

And we are working closely with the Ministry of Defence and others to prevent homelessness for veterans.

It is crucial that we continue to work closely with frontline workers, but also crucial with those who have lived experience of homelessness to guide us in our decision and policy making.

Our new Change Team are a group of people with frontline and first-hand experience of homelessness. They will share evidence of what works across wider networks, and create a digital and interactive resource to assist everyone who wants an end to homelessness in Scotland. This will help us build a better system and also shift stereotypical perceptions of homelessness which stand in the way of us building a fairer, equal society.

We have achieved much in the past year but we recognise we have further to go. As 2020 approaches, we will embrace the challenges that lie ahead and work together because we owe it to the people of Scotland, and the rest of the world, to make homelessness a thing of the past.

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