Many would need to leave work and claim benefits to afford accommodation
A majority of homeless people in Scotland have been led to believe they can’t afford homeless accommodation.
A new survey conducted by Homeless Action Scotland revealed 74.2% of people experiencing homelessness have been previously told that they would not be able to afford rent for homeless accommodation.
Most respondents to these questions told the charity that their clients did not take up the offer of homeless accommodation as a result.
There was also a proportion of respondents who informed the organisation that their service users had to stop working or give up full-time education to access homeless accommodation.
The reason most given was that being in employment or adult education effectively disbarred their client from using benefits to pay for the high rental charges associated with homeless accommodation.
Sofa surfing was common for those presented as homeless but were working, which was highlighted as a gender-based issue.
One respondent said that rental charges are capped irrespective of whether the accommodation is used for homeless accommodation. However, this appears not be standard practice across Scotland.
Gavin Yates, CEO of Homeless Action Scotland, said: “We are very grateful to our members for highlighting their concerns on this important issue. It is clear in some authorities there have been approaches taken to encourage homeless people to continue to work and to ensure they can do that at no detriment. In others the advice has been to cease work and claim benefits. This cannot be the right answer to this issue.
“It can’t be right that some councils charge working people £300 a week for temporary accommodation when the average rent is nearer £75.
“There needs to be an end brought to this postcode lottery and everyone that can and wishes to work should be able to access social housing at an affordable rate. This practice of allowing people to build up unsustainable housing debt must end.
“We are calling for an immediate taskforce with the key players round the table including COSLA and the Scottish Housing Regulator to end this practice for good.”
The ability to access financial support via housing benefit while working was also a factor on whether clients were able to access temporary homeless accommodation or not.
A respondent said: “We have definitely had cases of clients living in their cars or vans, because it was too expensive to go homeless. I remember one was a window cleaner, another a care assistant.”
Another added: “Most did not access accommodation but the ones who had no other choice had to, (they) reported being plunged into severe financial hardship and due to the impact of living in B&B or hostel/supported accommodation found holding the job down difficult.”
Several of the respondents pointed out that some of the temporary accommodations, such as B&B’s or supported accommodations, have set curfew hours which make it difficult for anyone who is working out with normal office hours.
Another issue highlighted was one of discrimination against people living in homeless accommodation when they applied for a job.