Council agrees bold outcomes to tackle homelessness
A wide range of recommendations published last week to tackle homelessness were approved by the City of Edinburgh Council today (Thursday, 7 June).
In a report to the local authority’s Housing and Economy Committee the cross-party homelessness task force recommended a number of bold outcomes, which when implemented will improve the quality of life for some of the most vulnerable people in the city.
The actions include reducing the use of bed and breakfasts as temporary accommodation, particularly for families.
This is not possible immediately and in the meantime it is recommended that extra funding is provided to allow the Council to contract accommodation that will provide much needed facilities such as food storage, cooking facilities and washing machines. This will vastly improve quality of life for those living in temporary accommodation and service users will also be able to rate the accommodation they are living in.
The Council has been working in partnership with the Scottish Government and Streetwork since the end of last year to develop a rapid access accommodation programme to provide beds for those sleeping rough. The service was put in place over the winter to ensure that those sleeping rough could access services to help them on the road towards improving their lives.
The model is currently funded until the middle of June and it is proposed that the Council identifies ways to increase the number of beds available. The support offered through this service is vital to give people who are rough sleeping the opportunity to resolve the issues that led them to sleep on the streets in first place.
Proposals will also be drawn up to look at alternative accommodation for young people who find themselves homeless. The task force has asked for a range of potential options to be considered for 16/17 year olds including a young persons’ shared house, access to self contained flats and a young persons’ supported unit.
Money raised by Social Bite at Sleep in the Park has also become available to provide support packages to homeless people with complex needs through Housing First. Further consultation is required with partner agencies to develop a sustainable model of delivery beyond the initial funding period. The Housing First model will help some of the most vulnerable people in the city to take on a tenancy. This would not be possible without the appropriate support in place.
In order that homeless people can get quicker access to a permanent home, the EdIndex board has also agreed to provide an additional 275 homes for homeless people to access through the allocations process.
Cllr Kate Campbell, Housing and Economy Convener, said: “Since setting up the homelessness task force, we have worked really hard to identify the things that we can change to make a real difference to people’s lives. We have listened to people with lived experience and our third sector partners in the city and the recommendations came directly from those conversations.
“A huge amount of work has already been carried out in recent years on homelessness prevention. But action is needed to improve the living conditions of those people who are presenting as homeless right now.
“We’re making changes to B&Bs so that people living in them will be able to wash their clothes, store food and cook. This might seem like a small difference but it will it will make a huge difference to people’s lives.
“And we can now push on and increase the number of beds available for those sleeping rough and find better solutions for young people requiring temporary accommodation. Finally, the money we can now access raised by Social Bite will allow us to offer tenancies to some of the most vulnerable homeless people in the city.”
Homelessness presentations continue to fall year on year in the city, due to a Council wide increase in focus on prevention and early intervention. In 2017/18, 3,102 households presented as homeless, down from the peak of 5,517 in 2006/7.
During the same period, the average homelessness case length has increased from 109 days to 303 days. This is a result of welfare reform, lack of affordable housing options, the removal of non-priority status and a growing population, despite the delivery of 8,565 affordable homes in the city during that same period.
Because of the increase in case length, there is greater pressure on the Council’s temporary accommodation services. Each evening the Council, through a range of services, accommodates approximately 1,900 households.