Gavin Yates: There may be trouble ahead – a report from the Homeless Prevention Strategy Group
Homeless Action Scotland CEO Gavin Yates reports back from the Homeless Prevention Strategy Group (HPSG) and warns that despite worrying homelessness statistics this year, potentially yet more bad news is on the horizon.
The HPSG is a group of representatives from the voluntary sector, health, social landlords, Scottish Government and local government where we try and shape homelessness policy. The meetings are held every couple of months and are usually a frank exchange of views but also with a belief that things can get better.
At the latest meeting held this week, there was a discussion about the recent homelessness statistics. Homeless Action Scotland did a recent blog expressing that we were disappointed with the backslide but also warning of bleaker times ahead. The latest stats cover the period of 12 months ending just after lockdown, so represent a pre-COVID position.
Increases in those declaring themselves homeless were really disappointing but not unexpected. The housing crisis that we talk about and the broken housing market makes life difficult for renters, add in zero-hours contracts and austerity, there was always a sense of some inevitability.
What was revealed at the meeting is that Scottish local authorities have estimated that these numbers would rise by between 2 and 10% because of the effects of COVID 19 which on any measure is absolutely eye-watering.
At least local authorities have taken the steps to model for this and we need to be clear that this will mean a crisis for housing providers and more crucially the people they try and serve.
The COVID crisis will mean that thousands of people who have never been in debt before will face debt and in turn housing crisis before the next 12 months are out.
There was other much more positive news in the meeting. The move to accommodate people in hotels at the start of the COVID crisis has been continued with many moving into more settled accommodation. There are also plans in place to ensure there is no return to night-shelters this winter in Scotland and no-one is forced to sleep rough.
This move in itself shows what can happen if the political will is there to no longer tolerate rough sleeping.
It will take that same political will and crucially more resources to ensure that the housing crisis is not hugely exacerbated by the economic fallout from COVID-19.
The full minute of the HPSG is always published on the Scottish Government website and I hope you’ll take the time to read it when it comes out. In the meantime, if you have any questions then contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us on Twitter or Facebook.