Glasgow City Council’s own figures show that it unlawfully failed to offer temporary accommodation to homeless people 3,025 times last year. It is a scandal and should simply not be acceptable that people are systematically being denied their legal right to make a homeless application and receive temporary accommodation.
After years of trying to address this problem via formal channels with council officials and elected representatives, last Thursday Shelter Scotland held a peaceful protest outside City Chambers to demand Glasgow City Council stops turning homeless people away.
The energy and passion of the protesters ran high, which is no surprise given the severity of this issue. Our Glasgow Hub team regularly supports people who have been denied their rights and have ended up resorting to sleeping on the streets or sofa surfing.
Passers-by were shocked to hear about this shameful, systemic problem. Sadly, however, the Council did not come out to speak to us. When their public response did come, it was of denial and to make (inaccurate) claims that Shelter Scotland had refused to meet with senior officials.
Since 2013, Shelter Scotland has met with officials at all levels numerous times. In January this year, we sent the council a report outlining our evidence of over 100 gatekeeping cases in Glasgow. Though we also sent reports to other local authorities, Glasgow was the only who didn’t respond.
We also provided information to the Local Government and Communities Committee at Holyrood, the members of the Scottish Government’s Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, and the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning. Furthermore, in March 2018 the Scottish Housing Regulator reported that Glasgow City Council had a duty to make an offer of temporary or emergency accommodation to households on 10,350 occasions, but made an offer in only 60% of these. But none of this has stopped the council from denying people their rights.
So, after over five years of continuous lobbying on this issue with no real change, after weekly experiences where our Glasgow hub are supporting people who have been denied their rights, and after official statistics confirmed what we’ve long been saying, we decided that enough was enough, direct action was needed.
We had two asks: 1) an immediate end to gatekeeping and 2) an emergency meeting with the leader of Glasgow City Council within two weeks and an official response to our Gatekeeping report within two months.
Since the protest, our Facebook live video has attracted nearly 12,000 views.
Our online petition has had over 450 sign ups and our hashtag #GlasgowCCFailsPeople has appeared in Twitter feeds an estimated 181 thousand times. We also attracted coverage in local and national online and print media. As a result of the protest, public awareness of and support to end gatekeeping is rising. Individuals have contacted us directly to tell us about experiences and asked us to keep them updated on our progress with the council.
One week on, we are now coordinating a meeting with the City Convener for Health and Social Care, the Chief Officer of Planning, Strategy & Commissioning and Head of Adult Services (Homelessness, Addiction and Criminal Justice) within Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership. We hope the council will now acknowledge the scale of the problem and commit to putting an end to gatekeeping and the systemic failing it represents. However, we need to keep the pressure up!
Going forwards, we of course want to engage constructively and effectively with the council, as we always seek to do. This is not a party-political issue (it never has been and never will be – we also raised these concerns with the previous city administration over many years) and we are well aware there is a serious shortage of suitable temporary accommodation in the city. But the council cannot and must not continue to break the law.
Building on our protest and the strong public engagement it received, we will be holding a public meeting on Thursday 9th August to talk to people in Glasgow about their experiences of gatekeeping and what we can do collectively to stop it. For more information email: Timeforchange_Glasgow@shelter.org.uk.
If you missed the protest, you can catch up by reading our Q&A, and watching our Facebook Live and Twitter feeds. And if you’ve not already – please sign our petition and help stop Glasgow City Council from breaking the law.