Council hosts event with partners to tackle homelessness
Public and third sector partners are meeting today to suggest innovative new solutions to preventing homelessness and providing those who are homeless with a permanent, settled home.
The event is timely as it comes just before World Homeless Day (10 October). Kevin Stewart, Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning is also attending.
Edinburgh faces a significant challenge addressing homelessness as the cost of housing in the city continues to rise and only 15% of housing is for social rent compared to a national average of 24%.
This means that in Edinburgh around 10% of the population, who in other local authorities would be living in social housing, are living in the private rented sector. In addition to this Edinburgh’s private rented sector is the most expensive in Scotland.
Participants at today’s event will be asked to look at how a wider range of settled housing options could be developed in the longer term, how temporary accommodation could be transformed and how the number and length of stays for people living in unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation could be reduced. They will also be asked to look at how homelessness can be prevented in the city and how to reduce the number of people rough sleeping.
Any ideas with potential for future service delivery would be developed further in smaller engagement events and incorporated into the Council’s Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan.
Cllr Kate Campbell, Convener of the Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work Committee, said: “The rapid rehousing transition plan is about preventing homelessness while also increasing the housing options available to households that do become homeless. We want to get to a place where the number of homeless presentations is equal to the number of homes available every year, and people who do become homeless can move straight into a permanent, settled home.
“This will take time because of the pressures we face in Edinburgh, so we also need to improve temporary accommodation while at the same time working towards ending its use.
“The pressure on housing in Edinburgh is high because we have proportionally lower levels of social housing than the rest of Scotland alongside high population growth and an already expensive private rented sector, which is being exacerbated by an explosion of short term lets.
“We have one of the most ambitious council led house building programmes in the country, and building 20,000 affordable homes is an important part of the solution, but on its own is not enough. We also need to work with partners across the city, building on our already strong approach to prevention, continuing to develop new models of accommodation and support but most importantly of all making sure that we are working towards the same goals, sharing learning and building on each other’s strengths. And that is what today is about.”
Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “We want to end rough sleeping and homelessness. As part of that, it is our priority to support the transition to a system of rapid rehousing, where we support people into settled homes after a period of homelessness as quickly as possible – and minimise the length of time spent in temporary accommodation.
“We have allocated £24 million over three years for rapid rehousing. This money will help local authorities and partners support those at risk of sleeping rough, move people into settled accommodation first, and then help with any longer-term needs.
“We continue to work with councils on our shared goal of ending homelessness and supporting people in local communities across Scotland.”
Lorraine McGrath, Chief Executive, Streetwork@SimonCommunityScotland, said: "Our ultimate aim must always be that no one experiences the trauma and harm of homelessness. Until we can achieve that we must find ways of ensuring that when the worst does happen the experience is short and the service response is the best it can be. I am delighted that best efforts are being made to make rapid rehousing the new norm and that today, despite the many challenges we face in Edinburgh, we are bringing together our collective knowledge, creativity and relationships with people, to inform improvement and change."
Kate Polson, Chief Executive, Rock Trust and Chair of Shape (Third Sector Homeless Forum Edinburgh), said: “The third sector welcomes the opportunity to work alongside City of Edinburgh Council colleagues to develop and implement plans that will enable people to access safe and stable homes quickly. There has been significant progress towards ending homelessness nationally and we know that Edinburgh has some specific challenges. We hope that by working together we can address these and make a real impact on people in the city.“
Background – current initiatives
• In November 2017 the Council set up a Homelessness Task Force to address the issues facing the city. A number of recommendations were approved by Committee and a lot of service improvements have been carried out since
• The Task Force was reconvened in August this year to find additional solutions to help those people who are rough sleeping.
• Youth Emergency Support Service (YESS) is keeping half of the young people it works with presenting as homeless at home with their families where they are safe and where this is not possible they are being supported in appropriate accommodation.
• Recruited officers in each locality area to support people at risk of becoming homeless due to them having high rent.
• Helping people with their deposits where they are at risk of becoming homeless and prioritising homes being built through Edinburgh Living for mid market and market rent for those who simply can’t afford rent increases they are faced with.
• Introduced shared housing making sure that all temporary accommodation is of the highest standard possible. And changed contracts so people can cook and wash their clothes. This is a shift away from traditional B&B accommodation.
• Pilot to look at how individuals currently living in bed and breakfast accommodation could be matched to share a tenancy.
• Expanding rapid access accommodation which has had incredibly successful outcomes in helping people to stop rough sleeping, and beginning a programme of Housing First.