Everyone Home: Grant Campbell, Director at Crisis in Scotland
This outbreak has shown how crucial it is to tackle homelessness.
As discussions and speculation continue around just how we will move out of lockdown, those experiencing homelessness in Scotland must be at the centre of this thinking.
Over the last few months, people sleeping on our streets have been moved into hotels, so they could keep safe and follow the guidance around self-isolation and social distancing. Legislation has been brought forward to limit the amount of time anyone can spend in unsuitable temporary accommodation before they must be moved to somewhere safe and settled. Homelessness organisations have also pulled together to ensure desperately needed support and services were still there for people to access. It has all been truly remarkable.
At Crisis’ Edinburgh Skylight centre, we have adapted the ways in which we work so that we can continue to be there for the hundreds of clients we work with. Our incredibly dedicated teams have moved to providing support remotely, whether that’s over the phone, via email or virtually, to protect our clients but still ensure that we are doing all we can to help them.
We’ve provided smartphones and tablets so that we can keep in touch with clients to make sure they’re safe. This has also made sure that we’ve been able to continue providing training opportunities, such as English teaching, employment skills as well as wellbeing classes such as cooking, creative writing and photography.
Our team have been providing 80 of our clients with food parcels or food vouchers to purchase vital necessities, and we’ve also made referrals to food bank to clients so that we make sure those who cannot afford to shop or those who are shielding have support to eat. One member of staff delivered eight food parcels in one day to support our clients across Edinburgh and East Lothian.
One of the biggest focuses throughout the outbreak has rightly been on ensuring that everyone has somewhere safe to stay. Our Help to Rent team, which helps clients find suitable, affordable tenancies and help them move in, have been busier than ever. The UK Government’s decision to increase housing benefit levels meant that in Edinburgh, hundreds of properties were now affordable to people relying on it.
Because of this, and that we have been able work with landlords to work flexibly and offer viewings either virtually or with social distancing, we have been able to support people find and move into safe and settled homes – something we should all have.
It’s important now that we build on this forward movement in local and national efforts to tackle homelessness. We know that if we work together, we can end homelessness.
That’s why Crisis and 18 other organisations have come together to set out a framework as to how we can leave homelessness and rough sleeping behind us. Called ‘Everyone Home’, we’ve set out our immediate priorities for action.
Increasing housing supply, permanently ending people sleeping rough on our streets and extending the ban on evictions into homelessness are all the key points the collective is calling for the Scottish Government to commit to. Scotland has long been a world leader in tackling homelessness – now is the time to act and see that ambition realised.