In July, the Shelter Scotland Campaigns and Policy team took our big red house to the streets of Leith, Edinburgh. This marked the final instalment in the first round of campaign days to mark our 50th year; we’ve now taken the supporter sign-up house to Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh (the locations of our four advice hubs) this summer.
Street campaigning is a vital part of our work. You may be used to seeing charity workers fundraising on the street – complete with eager smile and clipboard –but that’s not what we were doing. I’ve blogged before about the importance of email supporters, and that’s why we’ve been on the road recently; to chat to passers-by about our work, and ask if they’d like to join our bank of supporters who stand with us in calling for fair housing for all. If you’d like to sign up to hear from us about this, you can do so here.
We campaign on the streets to highlight the work that we do, and why we do it. This is particularly important as we mark our 50th year; 50 years after Shelter Scotland was founded on the back of public outrage about poor housing, our country is still in the grip of a housing crisis. Recent statistics show the extreme end of this – increases in the number of homeless applications and households in temporary accommodation. The time we spend out and about campaigning often brings home the human side to those statistics, as we chat to people directly affected in this way.
In Leith on Monday, I chatted to two local residents, both of whom were currently in temporary accommodation. One has been there for 10 years, and the other for 6; for them, this so-called ‘temporary’ accommodation hasn’t been very temporary. And these two people aren’t exceptions; we know that more than 1 in 10 people who use temporary accommodation stay there for over a year, some even longer. The Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group made many recommendations about how to improve temporary accommodation, and Housing Minister Kevin Stewart announced funding that will look to get those rough sleeping and in temporary accommodation into settled accommodation as fast as possible. This can’t come soon enough for the people I spoke to on Monday.
There’s another key motivation behind our street campaigning work, and that’s visibility. Despite the rights people have when experiencing homelessness in Scotland, and the organisations who support people through homelessness, sadly a lot of people remain unaware of where they can turn for help. Being out on the streets is one step towards making sure people are aware of and can access their rights.
On one of our recent campaign days, we spoke to someone who had spent the previous night sleeping rough. Once we realised his situation, we were able to direct him to the Shelter Scotland office, which was just round the corner. The gentleman went straight there, and, thankfully, we managed to help him find a house – that day.
It doesn’t happen like that very often, but when it does, it’s amazing.
As we mark half a century that Shelter Scotland has been fighting for a home for everyone, we are reinvigorating our efforts in campaigning on the streets where people can see us. With the housing crisis causing ever more complex problems for people across the country, it’s increasingly important that we build up our supporters to call for positive change and join the fight for a home for everyone. Last year, more people than ever came to us for help with homelessness and bad housing; it’s clear the situation is critical. And if our being out on the streets means we meet people who otherwise wouldn’t have accessed our services, all the better.
Over the next few months, we’ll be campaigning in Perth, Paisley, Stirling and Dumfries, so please do come and chat to us!
As always, if you’re in need of housing advice, you can access it here: shelterscotland.org/getadvice
And most importantly – sign up as a supporter to keep up to date and join the fight: shelterscotland.org/50