You may have seen or heard in recent months that this year is Shelter Scotland’s 50th anniversary. Well today – October 3rd – is our birthday. Half a century ago today, we were founded into existence in Scotland. It’s a significant milestone and it’s prompted us to reflect a bit on the past 50 years of our work.
The signs of Scotland’s housing crisis were much more visible 50 years ago. There was slum housing in many of our cities. One bathroom and shared cooking facilities, in run down tenement blocks with rat-infested properties, were not unusual. These conditions resulted in significant health problems for tens of thousands of families. In Glasgow alone 11,000 homes were declared unfit for human habitation in the 1961 census. Nick Hedges’ photos vividly show the level of housing need 50 years ago. You can see more of his photos online.
Shelter Scotland’s first annual report reflects on their successful fundraising activity during the first year. Without the generosity of people who cared about homelessness and bad housing we wouldn’t have been able to establish a campaigning organisation, which has now developed into the housing and homeless charity in Scotland.
A fundraising ‘Youth Campaign’ was launched to raise money in 1968 and managed to secure a third of the organisations income in the first year from young people. And this desire to make a difference continues to this day.
Many people were involved in sponsored walks. Almost 50 years since they led their school in a sponsored walk to raise funds for our fledging homelessness charity, a group of former pupils from Dollar Academy headed back to their old school for another fundraising mission. The group, now in their 60s, returned to raise more funds for Shelter Scotland on its 50th anniversary. The members of the original organising committee and their family and friends led around 1,000 pupils on a 12-mile fundraising walk through the Ochil Hills.
Once the fundraising targets had been met, we were able to create and launch our first policy campaign called ‘Face the Facts’. This campaign fought for the changes needed to eradicate slum housing in Scotland and it put Shelter Scotland firmly on the map, establishing us as a campaigning organisation.
In Shelter Scotland’s first year we also supported the newly formed housing associations to rehouse homeless families. From the start we were established as an organisation which campaigned about housing issues and provided services, which supported people to find and keep a home. The evidence gathered from the people who came to us for support has always informed our campaigning activity.
We have moved on since 1968 – there has been significant progress with new housing and homeless legislation, more affordable homes being built, and standards have improved. As we look at the current housing landscape it is less obvious where the housing problems are, as slum housing has long gone, and the issues we are facing today are less visible.
We know from the people who come to us for help that far too many people are STILL struggling to find and keep a decent home. Last year more people than ever before came to us for help and the majority were needing support to keep their home, they were struggling to afford their housing costs or were facing eviction.
The housing emergency must urgently be tackled – we live in a society where every day 38 children lose their home and every 18 minutes a household become homeless. Behind these statistics are people, families and individuals. As a nation we have failed if we think this is acceptable.
There can be no denying the scale and reality of Scotland’s housing crisis and the very human cost that it carries. Too many people’s lives are being devastated by an acute shortage of affordable social homes, harsh welfare reforms, stagnant wages and the prohibitive cost of keeping a roof over their head.
So, 50 years later, despite the progress we’ve made, we will continue to fight for people to have access to a decent and affordable home where they can thrive, in communities where they are safe and have access to the services they need.
We still need YOUR help. The experience from the last 50 years has shown that TOGETHER we can make a difference. If you would like to support us, please sign up here to find out how: shelterscotland.org/50
Or text SHELTER to 70007 to donate £3