Cyrenians joins eighteen other influential charity sector organisations working to end homelessness to present a joint plan to the Scottish Government today (Thursday 21 May) based around three key asks that experts and academics believe could permanently end rough sleeping and destitution in Scotland as the country emerges from the pandemic.
The Collective, named Everyone Home, includes many household names and respected organisations working to end homelessness in all parts of the country. Together, they have agreed a ‘triple-lock’ of measures to protect the progress that has been made and underpin next steps.
Patrick McKay, Chair of Homeless Network Scotland and Operations Director, Turning Point Scotland said: “The majority of people and organisations in Scotland that care about homelessness agree that the Scottish Government’s Ending Homelessness Together Plan is the right approach, and we were making progress. However, the onset of this pandemic demanded a rapid response to keep people safe. Since March we have managed to accommodate and support all those who wanted to be indoors, including people with no recourse to public funds such as people seeking asylum in Scotland. Throughout, local and national government, charities, health and housing associations have worked together.
“It is now imperative to secure that progress. The pandemic will have a disproportionate impact on people who experience all types of disadvantage, potentially driving up homelessness. By implementing the measures outlined in this plan, Scotland has a unique window to end rough sleeping and mitigate the impact of all forms of homelessness.”
To help set out a way forward in local and national efforts to tackle homelessness now and in the future the 19 organisations involved in the Collective have agreed priorities and set out a range of approaches they would like to see applied to homelessness. These are:
- prioritise prevention, create as much housing capacity as we can now and make a long-term commitment to increase the supply of homes for social rent
- permanently prevent a return to previous levels of rough sleeping in all areas
- no evictions into homelessness, the end of avoidable evictions and the threat of illegal evictions.
Ewan Aitken, Chief executive of the charity, Cyrenians, based in Edinburgh, said:
“COVID19 has thrown into sharper relief how interdependent we are. Homelessness is preventable, and right now, we have a unique window to change the housing situation in Scotland; to prevent the return of rough sleeping, and ensure homelessness is only ever at worst a brief and momentary transition in someone’s life. Let us make the most of this moment and create a legacy for Scotland that lives up to our shared values of justice and compassion.”
Jon Sparkes, Chief executive at Crisis, said:
“The effort from Scottish Government, local councils and homelessness organisations to help and protect people experiencing homelessness through the outbreak has been remarkable. The move to get everyone sleeping on our streets inside has shown it is possible to end rough sleeping. We see an opportunity for Scotland to become the first nation in Great Britain to end homelessness. The Scottish Government laid out its ambitions to achieve this in its Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan – we must seize the moment and act now to ensure every one of us has a safe and settled home.”
Alison Watson, Deputy director Shelter Scotland, said:
“The coronavirus crisis has exposed the deep divisions within Scottish society between those who have the security and safety of a good permanent home and those who do not. The remarkable effort to move people off the streets and to protect tenants facing eviction shows what can be done when the will is there. But these are temporary measures and there is a real risk that more people will be swept into homelessness in the months ahead. There can be no return to the failed housing system of the past, no more sticking plaster solutions. We need bold action that ensures we have the homes we need, that people’s housing rights are enforced and that individuals have the support they need for a safe future.”
Simon Community Scotland, along with partner frontline organisations including Bethany Christian Trust, were funded to accommodate people who were sleeping rough at the beginning the period when restrictions came into effect.
Lorraine McGrath, Chief executive of Simon Community Scotland, said:
“As lockdown begins to ease this is the moment for frontline organisations to use the learning of working so closely with so many people and from delivering positive impacts. It is time for us to be clear about what is needed and what works. We hope that people will carefully consider how they might best use their compassion and generosity to support us in truly ending the blight of rough sleeping and homelessness. Just one night of rough sleeping is one too many, often a consequence of years of trauma, mental health issues and poverty that leads on to further harms from addiction. We must do everything possible to prevent it and have the right responses in place when it happens. That is why Simon Community Scotland and other frontline organisations are supporting the priorities set out in today’s plan.”
Alasdair Bennett, Chief executive of Bethany Christian Trust, based in Edinburgh, said:
“Availability of increased accommodation, temporary removal of systemic barriers, and significant grant funding have enabled concentrated mobilisation in reducing the level of rough sleeping across Scotland. Rough sleeping is not static however, prevention is critical, and quality housing with support is urgently needed as we seek to effectively accommodate and support people. We wholly support the three priorities of the Collective.”
Mike Burns, Chief executive of Aberdeen Cyrenians, said:
“With the dedication of staff and generosity of the public we have continued to offer support to people but we must keep the best of what we have learned. The crisis has accelerated innovation, for example engaging with vulnerable people digitally, new ways of delivering drug treatment and rapid intervention to prevent rough sleeping. Let’s make sure we exit this first stage of the pandemic with a better response to homelessness, this plan sets out how we can start to achieve that.”
The Collective will also present a framework for offering support and guidance to local authorities, private landlords, tenants, housing associations as well as a framework to support rapid scaling of Housing First across all areas in Scotland. This will provide learning, guidance and tools for quality assurance, support and cost implications.
The plan will be submitted to the Scottish Government today and the 19 organisations that are members of the Collective will continue to develop and refine plans for ensuring an effective response to the Covid-19 pandemic as restrictions are lifted.