The City of Edinburgh Council plans to revise its Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan to further strengthen support for people facing homelessness.
Members of the Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work Committee will consider updates to the strategy at a special meeting tomorrow (Friday 18 September) before it is submitted to the Scottish Government for consideration.
This is the second version of the Council's plan which acts as a local route map for preventing homelessness, reducing rough sleeping, transforming temporary accommodation and supporting families into settled homes as quickly as possible.
Additions to the plan include exploring ways of intervening earlier and actively engaging with people before they are at risk of homelessness. These ideas include:
- Developing a proposal for a Youth Housing Hub - a centrally located service where young people can access support, homeless assessments, advice and accommodation
- A pilot for a new homelessness prevention scheme - involving a team working across Council services to identify trigger points that may put someone at risk of homelessness in the future
- A prevention fund - which can be accessed quickly by frontline workers to draw down small amounts of money, empowering them to provide immediate support where they deem appropriate to prevent someone reaching crisis-point
- Appointing a new partnership working officer - to identify opportunities for partners and frontline staff to recognise early on when there is a risk of homelessness
- A pilot project to base specialist psychologists within homelessness hostels - embedding expert medical advice in the accommodation people are staying in to support with mental wellbeing and treatment.
Edinburgh is working to end rough sleeping and managed to move all families and pregnant women out of B&Bs during the early stages of the Covid-19 crisis. This involved the use of innovative accommodation options, including securing 590 additional bed spaces by turning to private sector leasing, hotels and short-term lets.
The updated Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan (RRTP) also proposes to build on the success of this joint Covid-19 response between the Council and third sector partners to create more and better accommodation options in the future. Highlighted as important to progress include:
- Increasing the amount of Rapid Access Accommodation available in Edinburgh - a service which is accessed directly from the street, does not have a curfew or a time limit for stays and which provides on-site support
- Moving the city's third sector run emergency care shelter into an alternative premises longer term, where social distancing can be practised more easily
- Spot purchasing private properties and continuing to work with short-term let landlords to rent homes to the Council
- Boosting the Council's supply of temporary furnished flats
- Supporting more people into home shares as part of a longer-term goal of ending the use of B&Bs.
Edinburgh has one of the lowest proportions of social housing in Scotland with only 15% of homes in social rent compared to a Scottish average of 23%, and the RRTP will also require an acceleration in the delivery of new homes. The Council has one of the most ambitious house-building programmes in the UK to help meet this challenge and a record number of new homes are being built.
Councillor Kate Campbell, Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work Convener, said:
"The RRTP is our annual plan for homelessness and our annual assessment of where we are. It’s an incredibly important document because it shows us, in very stark terms, the scale of the challenge that we face.
“But it is also an opportunity to focus on innovation and there are some incredibly exciting projects within it that show our steadfast intent to tackle homelessness at its root.
“We’ve got plans for more early intervention with a specialist, multi-skilled team which will intensively work with households at risk to prevent homelessness. Alongside this we are proposing investment in a youth homelessness hub and psychologists in hostels to give highly specialist support.
“We’re also asking for funding for ‘Seek, Keep and Treat’ so that we can recruit community recovery workers, with lived experience of homelessness and recovery, to support people with complex needs to move out of homelessness. And we’ve got plans to increase the number of temporary furnished flats and improve temporary accommodation.
“This is all in addition to extending and expanding some of the excellent practices we have developed in previous years.
“We know the challenges we face – only 15% social housing compared to a Scottish average of 24% alongside the most expensive private rents in Scotland. We have the largest Council house-building programme in the country which will address some of the housing need in Edinburgh. But we know we need to keep working to support people out of homelessness, and to prevent it in the first place.
"This plan will guide the decisions we make now and over the next five years as we support people through what is one of the most difficult and traumatic experiences. So we must set our sights high and never stop working to come up with new ideas and approaches to tackle one of the biggest challenges we face as a city.”
Councillor Mandy Watt, Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work Vice Convener, said:
“The picture is improving but there is always more work to be done. For instance, we’ve committed to build 10,000 affordable homes by 2022 and we've introduced new ways of doing things like home shares, which allow like-minded individuals to live together until they find a home of their own. We're also seeing fewer repeat presentations of homelessness, meaning our existing prevention services seem to be working but we are always looking for ways to improve them.
"That said, anybody who does become homeless should be found a suitable place to stay until they can move into a settled home. We know this will be financially challenging, so the Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan needs to be ambitious and outline options for new investment.
“The plan explores some innovative ideas, like a special hub to support and protect young people from becoming homeless; and a pilot project to quickly and effectively help anyone in crisis by basing psychologists in hostels. Projects like these will strengthen our existing work and join up our services.”