Homelessness could affect any one of us

The following article by Health, Social Care and Housing Convener, Councillor Ricky Henderson, featured in the Evening News on 21st February 2015.

How does a person end up homeless? A recent survey carried out by the Salvation Army uncovered a gulf between the public’s perception and the reality.

The fact is that homelessness can affect ordinary people, of all ages and backgrounds, who would never have imagined this outcome for themselves and their families. Becoming homeless – which means someone not having a permanent place to stay – has a devastating impact on people’s lives.

This is why the Capital Coalition has agreed to protect funding for commissioned services aimed at helping those affected by homelessness. It included this proposal in its budget motion after listening to the responses to thousands of residents who took part in one of the widest consultations ever undertaken by the Council.

Ongoing Council work focuses on preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place. We believe that tackling the issues that can lead to it is much more successful than dealing with it once it becomes a serious problem.

Our homelessness strategy has seen incidences drop by 17% in five years, and two-thirds of Council house lets go to those who are homeless. Making sure that there are enough affordable homes is a challenge that we are meeting head on – the budget motion also proposes spending a further £55m of investment into building more.

We recently announced an innovative scheme to prevent homelessness with third sector organisation partners the Bethany Christian Trust, Edinburgh Cyrenian Trust, Foursquare and CHAI (Community Help and Advice Initiative).

The aim is to take a collaborative approach by rebalancing housing support services and by placing emphasis on prevention, through mentoring, befriending, group work and visits from housing support staff.

This approach will help resolve some of the crises that lead to homelessness and also deliver initial savings of £400,000, with potential further savings in the future.

Details include giving advice about budgeting and debt, benefits, housing options, links to employment and training, and help to avoid social isolation.

Not having a permanent roof over your head can lead to all sorts of health and social issues, and it’s our duty, as a local authority, to protect our citizens and to give children the best start in life. Tackling the problems of homelessness before it’s too far down the line is something that we are very much committed to.

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