On Tuesday, Shelter Scotland marked its 50th Anniversary at the Scottish Parliament welcoming a wide range of stakeholders. We were delighted to be able to mark this important year for us with so many of our supporters, volunteers, friends and partner organisations. In particular, we were delighted to be joined on the night by Richard Holloway, who helped found Shelter Scotland in his living room half a century ago.
Scotland’s housing has undeniably changed for the better over the last 50 years. Compared to 1968 general housing conditions have improved dramatically. New laws to protect homeless people have come in and been strengthened. Home ownership has grown in line with the long-term aspirations of most people. Some change has been for the good. Some not so good. Since the 1980s more than half a million council and other public homes in Scotland have been sold and not replaced under the Right to Buy policy.
As many of the guests and speakers at the event noted, there is much for Shelter Scotland to be proud of over the last 50 year: as the First Minster herself said, Shelter Scotland has helped tens of thousands of people over the last 50 years, often at the most traumatic and vulnerable point in their lives, and our campaigning and policy work has been at the heart of all the progressive housing initiatives and laws that have been brought in by the Scottish Parliament since its re-opening. But this event was not a celebration.
Scotland remains in the grip of a very real housing crisis, with a very human cost. There is much for us still to do. We must keep fighting until there’s a home for everyone.
The First Minister herself recognised this and called on all political parties and all those present in the room to recognise bad housing and homelessness as a battle not yet won and to ensure there was a commitment to continued action.
Linda who also spoke at the event highlighted through her personal story how the broken housing system is still failing people in housing need. She gave a passionate and moving account of the 3-year journey she has had to find a permanent home. Linda had to cope with becoming homeless after her marriage broke up and a serious illness, which has meant she has to use a wheelchair.
Linda was placed in unsuitable temporary flats with her two children. The flats were not on the ground floor and due to the lack of lift access she was housebound for months. Linda told of how isolating it was and how lonely this made her feel. She had no-one fighting for her and helping her to find a suitable permanent home. She then contacted Shelter Scotland and our housing adviser and legal team fought on her behalf to find a permanent home for Linda and her family. It was a long and difficult 3-year period for Linda, and I think everyone in the room was shocked that this could still happen in Scotland in 2018.
While much good progress has been made over the last half-century, bad housing and homelessness still blights the lives of many thousands of people in Scotland, robbing them of their health, security and a fair chance in life. People are still sleeping rough and dying on Scotland’s streets in 2018. A household becomes homeless every 18 minutes, more than 14,000 children were homeless last year, and thousands of people still contact us for help every month.
In our 50th year we want to remind people in Scotland about the significant housing challenges that still exist and energise and re-engage people with our core purpose of campaigning until there is a home for everyone.
Thank you to Monica Lennon MSP for hosting our reception, to the First Minister for giving the keynote address and to everyone that attended the event. While these kinds of events have an important role to play in keeping housing and homelessness on the political radar, we need to turn these warm words and goodwill into real support. To join our fight, please sign up here to find out how you can help us in ensuring there is a decent and affordable home for everyone: www.shelterscotland.org/50