Homeless person sleepingImage copyright Getty Images

A homelessness charity has launched a public appeal for help to alleviate the “crisis” in Scotland this winter.

Shelter Scotland has said that 28,000 Scottish households were assessed as homeless last year.

The charity said an estimated 5,000 people sleep rough on Scotland’s streets all year round.

Across the UK the number of people recorded as homeless has reached 307,000 – equal to more than half of the population of Glasgow.

In the most extensive review of its kind, the housing and homelessness charity combined official rough-sleeping, temporary accommodation and social services figures.

This showed the number of homeless people in Britain has increased by 13,000 in a year but it claimed, as government records are not definitive, the true figure is likely to be even higher.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Rough sleepers are only one section of people who are classed as homeless

Deputy director of Shelter Scotland Alison Watson said the number of homeless people is “shocking”.

She said: “On a daily basis, we speak to hundreds of people and families who are desperately trying to escape the devastating trap of homelessness.

“A trap that is tightening thanks to decades of failure to build enough affordable homes and the impact of harsh welfare cuts which are now, for many, being compounded by the roll-out of Universal Credit.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “This is more evidence that UK Government welfare cuts are causing major hardship and housing insecurity for many people.

“We established a short-term homelessness and rough sleeping action group, chaired by chief executive of Crisis Jon Sparkes and including Shelter, which will recommend immediate steps we can take to minimise rough sleeping, both this winter and for good, as well as ways to transform temporary accommodation.

“This will be backed by our commitment to a £50m Ending Homelessness Together fund and an extra £20m on addiction services from next year.”

“It was one of the scariest times of my life”

Stacey Timony, from Edinburgh is a self-employed single mum. She has been in temporary accommodation with her four children for over a year.

They became homeless when she was asked to leave a private let and found herself priced out of the market.

Stacey believes the council deliberately tried to put her off accessing her rights to temporary housing.

She said: “The council literally made every bit of the process unbearable. There was no understanding, no information, no support and no guidance. It was one of the scariest times of my life.”

A two-month battle with the City of Edinburgh Council to get into temporary housing saw them moved from B&B to B&B and sleeping on floors with friends or family when the council couldn’t accommodate them.

Stacey added: “I sleep on a sofa because the bed the council provide makes the prolapsed disc in my back worse. They won’t let me swap it for my own bed which is in storage.

“It’s been a year and a half since we went into temporary housing and I still can’t give my children any answers or reassurance to when we will be housed or when their toys and belongings will be returned to them.”

Reflecting on the changes in housing, Stacey said: “I never thought I’d be in this position. I used to have a mortgage when my eldest children were small but the market has changed and housing is just so unaffordable.”

Scottish Labour’s housing spokesperson Pauline McNeill called on the Scottish Government to “start seriously tackling the rough sleeping crisis”.

She said: “That almost 30,000 Scottish households were homeless last year is a damning indictment of the austerity policies pursued by the Tories in Westminster and passed on by the SNP in Holyrood.”

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said the benefit system “lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives and raise their incomes”.

“The vast majority of claimants are paid in full and on time, and are comfortable managing their money,” he said, “but budgeting advice, benefit advances and direct rent payments to landlords can be provided for those who need extra help.”

Calling upon the public for support, Ms Watson said: “As this crisis continues to unfold, the work of our frontline services remains absolutely critical. We will do all we can to make sure no one is left to fight homelessness on their own.

“But we cannot achieve this alone – we urgently need the public’s support to be there for everyone who needs us this winter.”

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