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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Homelessness is far from fixed in Scotland

This opinion piece is over 7 years old

Graeme Brown says with 5,000 children waking up each day without a permanent home, much more needs to be done to tackle homelessness in Scotland

Scotland leads the world in tackling homelessness.

That claim has been a source of pride over the last 15 years since ambitious reform to homelessness law in Scotland gave us the 2012 commitmen to give all homeless people the right to a settled home.

So why, nearly four years on, do our services and legal teams at Shelter Scotland still deal with desperate people who have been turned away from local authority services without even an attempt to make a homelessness assessment.

That proves to us that, despite the 2012 commitment coming into force, homelessness in Scotland is far from fixed. And Shelter Scotland is determined to do something about it.

Graeme Brown

There are 10,000 people living in temporary accommodation: so, having the right to a home is not the same as getting a home

Graeme Brown

Our new Homelessness: Far From Fixed campaign shows that homelessness can happen to anyone, people become homeless through chance not choice and we still have a long way to go to end homelessness in Scotland. Our campaign is calling for renewed national leadership on homelessness and a new National Homelessness Strategy for Scotland.

It’s a disgrace and a badge of shame that despite being one of the richest nations in the world, nearly 30,000 households became homeless last year in Scotland and more than 65,000 households approached their local authority for help with housing.

It’s shameful that each year there are thousands of people sleeping rough on our streets and a great many more hidden homeless people sofa-surfing with friends or living in unsuitable accommodation. It is simply unacceptable that tomorrow morning more than 5,000 children in Scotland will wake up without a permanent home of their own.

It is Shelter Scotland’s view that local and national governments have taken their eye off the ball on homelessness. That’s why it is time to reforge a commitment to tackling homelessness, building on the gains of the last 15 years but also recognising the areas where progress has been much patchier.

The current state of homelessness in Scotland proves that even the best legal framework is only as good as the help it provides to people in need. Sadly, across the country services are uneven. There are 10,000 people living in temporary accommodation: so, having the right to a home is not the same as getting a home. Meanwhile, 150,000 households are on council house waiting lists, showing the wider strain on the system.

We think the time for good rhetoric and resting on our laurels is over. We need to face up to the reality that we are still failing far too many people in our society, particularly the most vulnerable, on their basic human right to a home.

It is time for bold action and the Scottish people agree with us. Research carried out for us by YouGov shows that 75% of people in Scotland think homelessness is a problem today and 54% agree that the Scottish Government could do more to tackle it.

It is only by being bold and actually living up to our ambition of being a progressive and socially just nation that we can finally start to fix homelessness for good in Scotland.

We’d like to see politicians, individuals and third sector organisations who agree with our aims to show their support by signing up online at

Graeme Brown is director of Shelter Scotland