Helping to prevent homelessness in Scotland

In North Ayrshire, since 2003, there has been a 57.5 per cent reduction in homelessness. Of 436 private sector households threatened with homelessness during that period, none went on to present as homeless.

The local authority and NHS Ayrshire and Arran have also jointly funded a dedicated public health nurse to ensure homeless people can access primary health care.

In the Edinburgh, Lothians and Borders Hub, six councils have commissioned research to help increase access to the private rented sector for homeless households. A media campaign – urging households who are worried about housing difficulties to seek early advice – has also been started.

In June, The Highland Council established a team of homeless prevention officers based in Inverness. In two months the number of homeless presentations in the city has dropped by over 50 per cent and the number of households being referred for B&B accommodation has reduced by over 60 per cent.

Addressing the Housing Option Seminar in Edinburgh, Housing Minister Keith Brown said:

"Scotland has an important, but challenging, homelessness target: that by the end of December 2012, all unintentionally homeless households will have the right to settled accommodation.

"The main priority of the hubs is to focus on the prevention of homelessness through a combination of sharing best practice, joint training and commissioning joint research.

"Councils across the country are to be applauded for the manner in which they have enthusiastically embraced prevention as the way forward in the fight to tackle homelessness."

A COSLA Spokesman said:

"Councils have undertaken a tremendous amount of work over the last year to address homelessness, and working solidly towards meeting the 2012 target. This will be difficult to achieve, but huge progress has been made in narrowing the gap.

"The importance of the 2012 target is undeniable; homelessness is a misery for those who live with it. Acting on it, as Councils do, reduces the need to pick up the pieces that such disruptive experiences can have. We all appreciate the value of effective early intervention and preventative work.

"Good quality housing is at the heart of a wide range of other social issues. Decent housing contributes to good health, good social, family and community relations."

Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, says:

"We support the move towards housing options advice services. Shelter Scotland understands the challenges faced by local authorities in the run-up to 2012, especially the staff training and support needed to implement these changes.

"A housing options approach is only viable if there are real options available. The key challenge now is to make sure there is enough good quality housing available and that people are empowered to make choices that are right for them."

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