Shelter Scotland has accused the Scottish government and local councils of taking their eyes off the ball when it comes to homelessness
A housing and homelessness charity has blasted the Scottish Government and local councils saying it had to step in and help more people last year than in any other year.
Shelter Scotland accused politicians of taking their eye off the ball citing the number of people getting in touch with it in 2016 via its free national helpline rose by 6% compared to 2015.
The number of desperate people contacting the charity directly rose to 20,882 over the last 12 months. It also held 2,794 online digital chat advice sessions and its website saw an increase of hits up to 726,000.
Describing Scotland’s current level of homelessness as a national badge of shame, the charity’s head of policy, Adam Lang, said it was time for local and national government to take bold action to tackle the tragedy of homelessness head-on.
We are still failing far too many people in our society, particularly the most vulnerable, with the most basic of human rights
“It’s shameful that each year there are thousands of people sleeping rough on our streets, that there are thousands more hidden homeless people sofa surfing with friends and that on Christmas morning this year more than 5,000 children in Scotland will wake up homeless in temporary accommodation,” Lang said.
“We know that times are tough for more and more people because we see it every day - with more calls to our free national helpline, dozens of people using our digital chat service and thousands of visits to our online advice pages.
“It’s clear from these increasing numbers of people needing help that we are still failing far too many people in our society, particularly the most vulnerable, with the most basic of human rights - the right to shelter and a home.”
Lang spoke out at the launch of Shelter’s latest campaign to highlight the plight of homeless people this Christmas.
Official figures show there were 28,226 households in Scotland assessed as homeless last year.
Currently there are 10,555 households, including 5,224 children, living in temporary accommodation and likely still to be so come December 25.
The charity's Homelessness: Far From Fixed campaign aims to show that homelessness can happen to anyone and is calling on MSPs to sign up and commit to meeting four demands.
Those are: ensuring that everyone has a safe and affordable home, that help is available for everyone to find a home, that there is a safety net for those who do lose their home and that no one should ever have to sleep rough on Scotland’s streets.
The charity launched the campaign with a publicity stunt outside the Scottish Parliament.
It arranged for carol singers to perform outside the Scottish Parliament, alongside a giant snakes and ladders board game, symbolic of people becoming homeless through chance not choice.
In response to Shelter Scotland's call, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Tackling homelessness is of utmost importance as we work to make sure everyone – especially children – has access to a warm and safe place to stay. We are proud that Scotland’s legislation means that everyone has a right to temporary accommodation while they wait for appropriate permanent accommodation. The majority of temporary accommodation for families is in social housing and so is of the same quality as permanent accommodation.
“Progress is being made on overall homelessness with a 6% decrease in the number of households assessed as homeless, continuing the downward trend of recent years. Obviously, we want time in temporary accommodation to be as short as possible and we are increasing housing supply through our commitment to build 50,000 affordable homes over the next five years to help address this.”