Ruth Maguire MSP has welcomed the Scottish Government announcement that night shelters are being replaced with rapid rehousing welcome centres for people who would otherwise be sleeping rough this winter, in updated plans for tackling homelessness.
Announced in an updated action plan for tackling homelessness, the centres are part of plans to phase out night shelters entirely by expanding rapid rehousing approaches such as Housing First that provide settled accommodation as quickly as possible.
The centres will provide emergency accommodation for people who have no other options, encouraging them to move on to other services. People using the centres will be offered targeted support, including for wellbeing, health and social care issues, legal rights, employment and welfare.
The SNP MSP for Cunninghame South said: “This action plan published by the Scottish Government is a highly encouraging sign that the work taken to reduce the number of people sleeping rough during the pandemic is being built upon for more lasting change.
“The person centred and human rights based approach to give people with lived experience of homelessness is commendable, as is the emphasis on reducing the risk of evictions and stronger protections for people experiencing domestic abuse.
“Everybody should have a roof over their heads, and as winter approaches, the urgency of this basic human need is emphasised.”
Housing Minister Kevin Stewart, who co-chairs the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group, said: “Our vision is of a Scotland with no need for night shelters – where everyone has a home that meets their needs.
“Since our plan for tackling homelessness was first published in 2018 we have delivered on many of the urgent issues facing homeless people.
“This updated action plan renews our commitment to ending homelessness and rough sleeping once and for all, particularly by expanding services such as Housing First that provide longer-term accommodation and give homeless people the time and space to establish new lives for themselves.
“We are also placing even greater emphasis on preventing homelessness in the first place, and our new rapid rehousing welcome centres and are a first step to ending the use of night shelters altogether.”
Cllr Elena Whitham, CoSLA’s Community Wellbeing Spokesperson and the strategy group’s other co-chair, said: “The pandemic has reminded us all of the importance of having a safe and comfortable home that meets our needs. However, we know that the impacts of the crisis have not been felt equally. People facing poverty, inequality and other social harms have felt the impact far more greatly. Local Government has shared the ambition to end homelessness and our resolve to do this is now stronger than ever.
“The updated action plan sets out an inclusive and human rights-based approach focused on preventing homelessness, responding quickly, working together with our partners across sectors, taking a person-centred approach which is tailored to reflect individual needs and circumstances. I am grateful to the partners who have contributed to this plan, in particular to those with lived experience of homelessness. We must not allow the deepening of inequalities in our response and recovery to the pandemic, and ending homelessness is vital in preventing this.”
Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes, chair of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, said: “The ambition shown by the Scottish Government in publishing a revised Action Plan is brilliant to see. It builds on unprecedented action throughout the pandemic to protect people experiencing homelessness, and shows renewed ambition – including a commitment to move away from night shelters. The outbreak has shown that we can tackle homelessness and end rough sleeping when the will is there.
“As the economic impact of the outbreak continues to be felt, it is more important than ever to prevent people from losing their homes in the first place, and ensuring that if they do, they are helped to find somewhere safe and settled straight away. These actions must be a priority to ensure that Scotland continues towards ending homelessness for good.”
The Ending Homelessness Together updated plan also contains actions that will:
- minimise the risk of evictions
- strengthen protections for people experiencing domestic abuse
- give people with lived experience of homelessness or rough sleeping a greater say in the development of policy
- explore alternative routes to reducing migrant homelessness.
The plan was first published in November 2018, drawing on recommendations from the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG).
In June 2020 Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes was asked to reconvene the HARSAG to provide guidance on how to end homelessness in light of COVID-19. The group’s recommendations have fed into the updated action plan.