Not every house is a home with many bulkheads in temporary accommodation

We live in challenging times and the latest Scottish Government statistics and broader homelessness statistics give serious cause for concern at the highest number of open cases of homelessness since 2002 – 28,944 in September 2022.

This has led to a rising number of emergency shelters – 14,458 in September 2022, including 9,130 ​​children. According to the UK Housing Review 2023, temporary accommodation rates in Scotland are around 25 per cent higher than in England and 40 per cent higher than in Wales.

Sobering statistics. Especially in connection with longer and longer stays in emergency shelters – an average of 207 days. This is anything but temporary.

The ongoing response to humanitarian and asylum programs is also putting significant pressure on housing and social assistance services.

The phrase “perfect storm” has been used frequently, but research published last month confirms that Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans (RRTPs) provide a focus for development, with housing leading to change and service improvements despite the challenges. There is a sense that recovery from the pandemic could turn into renewal, the ‘cost of everything’ crisis should force innovation in service delivery to the most vulnerable, and a focus on poverty prevention can improve social justice. However, budgetary pressures related to short-term funding of initiatives do not stimulate or inspire confidence that the platform can be sustained without strong national leadership and adequate resources.

There is no doubt that local authorities and their partners are working under extreme pressure to minimize distress and support communities. This means the growth of Housing First programs, provisions that minimize transitions for people in vulnerable housing situations, the development of a range of innovative housing and shelters with support initiatives and interventions, and more local-level projects and initiatives.

The creation of person-centred housing options that anticipate (and respond to) the needs of those most at risk must be developed in partnership at the local level. By focusing on prevention, temporary accommodation can be the quality safety net it’s meant to be.

To achieve this, we must continue to focus on homeless services – the study published by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and Fife Council calls for five more years of targeted funding to ensure we make no progress in reducing the unacceptable number of homeless lose households “stuck in the system”.

We need decent, affordable housing, based on long-term, ambitious and achievable commitments, and the leeway to develop a range of options. While most need an affordable home, we need to make sure there are a range of sustainable solutions.

It’s hard to remember a time when the challenges were so numerous and so significant that it is all the more important to drive the kind of transformative changes in homeless service that will improve lives.

Gavin Smith is Chair of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Scotland Not every house is a home with many bulkheads in temporary accommodation

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