Number of Scots in temporary accommodation up by a quarter during pandemic

The number of Scots being housed in temporary accommodation increased by more than a quarter during the Covid-19 pandemic, the latest homelessness figures show.

Scottish Government statistics showed that as of September 30 last year there were 14,151 households in temporary accommodation – a 24% increase on the same date in 2019.

Over that period, the number being housed in bed and breakfast population virtually doubled: rising by 99% from 710 in September 2019 to 1,414 the following year.

Charity campaigners at Crisis said the record numbers of people being housed in temporary accommodation meant some would have to struggle without access to proper cooking and laundry facilities.

Authorities across Scotland acted to move rough sleepers off the streets at the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year.

Crisis chief executive, Jon Sparkes, said: “At the start of the pandemic our priority was supporting people off the streets and ensuring they had safe, self-contained accommodation.

“There is no doubt that extraordinary action by national and local government, as well as homelessness services, saved lives from both coronavirus and the cold, but these interventions are short-term solutions.”

He added: “We’ve seen huge progress in ending rough sleeping in Scotland. This has led to record numbers of people living in temporary accommodation, with many people being left without access to proper laundry or cooking facilities.

“We now need to see action to ensure these people are supported quickly into safe and settled homes.”

Despite the increase in the numbers living in temporary accommodation, the figures showed a decrease in the number of people seeking help for homelessness.

Between April and September 2020 a total of 16,997 homeless applications were received – 10% less than the same period in 2019.

Meanwhile, there were 13,645 households which were assessed as being homeless over the same period, a drop of 14% over the year.

The report explained some councils had seen a reduction in the numbers coming forward for help as “households were reluctant to approach homelessness services while Covid-19 guidelines advised households to remain at home, meaning households whose housing needs were less urgent opted to remain in their current accommodation”.

In addition to this, a reduction in evictions, due to emergency coronavirus legislation temporarily extending eviction notice periods, had also helped reduce the number of people needing assistance.

Housing minister, Kevin Stewart, stressed the Scottish Government did not want homeless people being housed in temporary accommodation for longer than necessary.

He said: “Since the start of lockdown, our priority has been to keep people safe from Covid-19 and housing people without a settled home in temporary accommodation was a public health imperative to keep people safe.

“Temporary accommodation can offer an important safety net, but it should be a short-term measure – we do not want to see anyone in temporary accommodation for longer than is absolutely necessary.

“We are now providing £30 million to local authorities and working hard to move people into a settled home.”

The minister added: “This is the first set of official homelessness statistics for which coronavirus restrictions were in place for the full reporting period, and the trends can largely be explained by the Scottish Government’s range of actions to keep people safe in the pandemic, such as the introduction of stay at home guidance and our extension of eviction notice periods.”

Mr Stewart stressed the Scottish Government remained “committed to ending rough sleeping and homelessness”, adding that an action plan had been produced which “lays out how we will get there”.

He continued: “The provision of homes is an important part of that and I am proud we have led the way on affordable housing, having delivered almost 100,000 since 2007, more than 68,000 of which were for social rent.

“Our Housing to 2040 strategy, launched this month, has set a target of delivering another 100,000 by 2032, and we are investing £3.5 billion in housing over the next five years to help support this work.”

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