Night shelters are to be replaced with rapid rehousing welcome centres for people who would otherwise be sleeping rough this winter, updated plans for tackling homelessness in Scotland have confirmed.
The centres will provide emergency accommodation for people who have no other accommodation options, and will encourage them to move on to other services.
Those using the centres will be offered targeted support for wellbeing, health and social care issues, legal rights, employment, and welfare.
Announced in an updated action plan for tackling homelessness, the rapid rehousing centres are part of plans to phase out night shelters entirely by expanding rapid rehousing approaches.
Housing First, for example, provides settled accommodation to people facing homelessness as quickly as possible.
The Ending Homelessness Together updated plan also contains actions that aim to:
- Minimise the risk of evictions
- Strengthen protections for people experiencing domestic abuse
- Give people with lived experience of homelessness or rough sleeping a greater say in the development of policy
- Explore alternative routes to reducing migrant homelessness
Housing minister Kevin Stewart, who co-chairs the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group, said: “Our vision is of a Scotland with no need for night shelters – where everyone has a home that meets their needs.
“Since our plan for tackling homelessness was first published in 2018, we have delivered on many of the urgent issues facing homeless people.
“The Scottish government’s swift response to Coronavirus has led to a dramatic reduction in the numbers of people sleeping rough and we must not let the problem return.”
Stewart continued: “This updated action plan renews our commitment to ending homelessness and rough sleeping once and for all, particularly by expanding services such as Housing First that provide longer-term accommodation and give homeless people the time and space to establish new lives for themselves.
“We are also placing even greater emphasis on preventing homelessness in the first place, and our new rapid rehousing welcome centres and are a first step to ending the use of night shelters altogether.”
Cllr Elena Whitham, CoSLA’s Community Wellbeing spokesperson and Strategy Group co-chair, said: “The pandemic has reminded us all of the importance of having a safe and comfortable home that meets our needs.
“However, we know that the impacts of the crisis have not been felt equally.
“People facing poverty, inequality and other social harms have felt the impact far more greatly – local government has shared the ambition to end homelessness, and our resolve to do this is now stronger than ever.”
Whitham added: “The updated action plan sets out an inclusive and human rights-based approach focused on preventing homelessness, responding quickly, working together with our partners across sectors, taking a person-centred approach which is tailored to reflect individual needs and circumstances.
“I am grateful to the partners who have contributed to this plan, in particular to those with lived experience of homelessness.
“We must not allow the deepening of inequalities in our response and recovery to the pandemic, and ending homelessness is vital in preventing this.”
Read more on homelessness in the UK:
- UK Housing Review warns of inability to meet post-COVID housing needs
- Greater Manchester Housing First pilot receives toolkit donation
- NFA calls on government to change homelessness strategy
Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes, chair of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, said: “The ambition shown by the Scottish government in publishing a revised Action Plan is brilliant to see.
“It builds on unprecedented action throughout the pandemic to protect people experiencing homelessness, and shows renewed ambition – including a commitment to move away from night shelters.
“The outbreak has shown that we can tackle homelessness and end rough sleeping when the will is there.”
Maggie Brünjes, chief executive at Homeless Network Scotland, said: “Home has never been so important – home saves lives.
“It is right that the Scottish government has published this enhanced action plan based on everything we now know.
“This was an already ambitious plan, now going further, while holding firm to the guiding principles of prevention and rapid rehousing.
“Among the changes, dormitory style winter night shelters will not feature in our response to homelessness in Scotland this year.
“The night shelter providers, Glasgow City Mission and Bethany Christian Trust in Edinburgh, have worked closely with the two city councils and the Scottish government to provide self-contained, en-suite rooms with rapid links to housing, welfare, and support services.
“These Rapid Rehousing Welcome Centres will transform the rough sleeping safety net, and I want to thank our third sector and local authority colleagues for such a progressive achievement.”
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