Before the pandemic we were already in a housing emergency with a household becoming homeless every 17 minutes, and 43 children becoming homeless in Scotland every day.
The homelessness system in some areas was already failing to adequately support people. In 2019/2020 there were 500 times when pregnant women and children were housed in unsuitable temporary accommodation for longer than 7 days. This means for example in B&Bs where they have little personal space, with shared cooking & washing facilities.
In the same year there were 4,595 times when a homeless household needed their local authority to house them in temporary accommodation, but they were not given it.
We are now over a year into this public health emergency and many of the homelessness services across the country are stretched to breaking point. As we come out of the pandemic, and we are likely to see a rise in evictions and homelessness, we have serious concerns that the homelessness system in some areas will not be able to offer the support and accommodation that people will need.
This is why we have called for more financial support for tenants that are struggling to pay their rent because of the pandemic, as well as the extension of extra protections for tenants against evictions. This will help prevent an increase in evictions and homelessness in the coming month. Read our blog post on that here.
Alongside this extra support however, it is now more important than ever than the rights of homeless people are strengthened.
Some of the important steps that the Scottish Government previously committed to that would strengthen the rights of homeless people were paused because of the pandemic, these now need to be carried forward without delay.
Suitable temporary accommodation for all homeless households
The Scottish Government took a huge step forward in May 2020 by introducing legislation that means that everyone is entitled to suitable temporary accommodation when they are homeless. We were disappointed they included covid related exemptions and allowed the use of B&Bs and hotels, however, we understood why that was necessary as a short-term measure.
There are now twice as many households being housed in B&Bs, when compared with the same date the year before. While the use of hotel accommodation to house people sleeping rough during the pandemic was a welcome emergency intervention, people must now be moved into suitable homes.
People living in temporary hostel and B&B accommodation in Edinburgh talked to one of our Time for Change peer mentors about the negative impacts that their living conditions are having on their quality of life:
“…It’s too communal and not that much privacy. It’s hard to have private space other than your room and it’s really isolating and feel my mental health affected”
“Sharing with recovering addicts, the substance abuse has increased within the house. No access to shared garden, and nowhere to dry clothes outside”
There is an urgent need for the Scottish Government to lift the exemptions this June, to ensure everyone has a right to decent and suitable temporary accommodation.
We also ask that the Scottish Government sets up a temporary accommodation task force, to look into the issues around the lack of suitable temporary accommodation. Ensuring that there is support in place to help local authorities deliver their duty to house every homeless household in good quality, decent temporary accommodation.
Local connection needs to be abolished
The Scottish Government needs to not only take forward its proposal to stop local authorities referring homeless applicants to other authorities based on local connection, but also prevent local authorities from assessing local connection entirely.
At the moment, individuals and families who are homeless and wish to move to another local authority area to get away from domestic abuse, or to be close to their family or place of work, are not automatically entitled to do that. We want this to change and are asking the Scottish Government to change the ‘Local Connection’ rules so that everyone has the right to control where they decide to call home.
 Scottish Government (2021) Homelessness in Scotland Statistics: Update to 30 September 2020