Lib Dems demand “ironclad guarantee” that progress on homelessness won’t be reversed

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have today demanded the government offer an ‘ironclad guarantee’ that progress made in tackling homelessness at the height of the pandemic will be protected and people will not be sent back on to the streets.

In a letter to the Housing Minister, Kevin Stewart, Scottish Liberal Democrats asked the Scottish Government to commit to the asks set out by Shelter Scotland:

  • Ensure no-one will be made homeless once emergency measures are lifted.
  • Prevent a return to using dormitory style emergency night shelters. 
  • Extend provisions in the Coronavirus Scotland Bill which protect people at risk of eviction and homelessness until at least April 2021.

The intervention comes as we move towards the 15th July - when tourism businesses are likely to be able to begin reopening their doors. Businesses across the sector are assessing how they can safely open and this will directly affect the hotels currently housing homeless people.

Alex Cole-Hamilton commented:

“The work that was done at the outset of the crisis to house people who were homeless was striking. 

“We should be immensely proud that people who in need got a roof over their head for the duration of the pandemic. But many people have been left wondering why interventions on this scale weren’t done sooner.

“Scotland has been battling a homelessness crisis for decades. Now we’ve shown it’s possible to tackle this at speed and leave no one outside, there’s no going back.

“The Scottish Government must give us an ironclad guarantee that this progress will be protected. Rough sleeping should be a thing of the past – permanently.”

The text of the letter can be found below:

Dear Minister,

We are writing to you to ask for a commitment from the Scottish Government that the progress which has been made in eradicating homelessness in Scotland will continue. The speed and efficiency with which rough sleepers have been accommodated and cared for during Covid-19 crisis indicates that not only does the Scottish Government have the capability to end homelessness in Scotland, but that it can be done quickly. 

Although we know that the pandemic is far from over, we are beginning to see a gradual return to normality. Whilst this return is welcomed, we are deeply concerned over the fate of the homeless population who are currently being accommodated in hotels across Scotland. As the tourist industry prepares to reopen from the 15th July we are asking the Scottish Government to offer an ironclad guarantee that this progress will not be lost. 

Figures published in February revealed that Scotland had the highest death rate amongst the homeless population of all the UK nations. We are sure you will agree that one death amongst the homeless population is too many, let alone the 195 which were registered in Scotland during 2018.  

Therefore we ask that you are able to honour the following proposals put forward by Shelter Scotland:  

  • A clear commitment from Scottish Government that no-one, including people with NRPF and asylum seekers, will be made homeless once emergency measures are lifted
  • A commitment to never return to having to use dormitory style emergency night shelters. Emergency accommodation must be suitable and allow people dignity, security and safety. 
  • The extension of the emergency measures from the first Coronavirus Bill so that we do not have people at risk of eviction and homelessness for Covid-19-related rent arrears during pandemic and a recession – until at least April 2021 – including people who have had eviction orders awarded against them pre-7 April 2020.

We look forward to your response. 

Yours sincerely,

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP

Caron Lindsay, Scottish Liberal Democrat spokesperson for housing and social security

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