Evidence to the local government and communities committee on homelessness in Scotland

We have submitted written evidence to the Scottish parliament. If called, Govan Law Centre will appear before the committee to give oral evidence to explain our experience of working for homeless people in Scotland.

Govan Law Centre believes that no person in Scotland should sleep rough.  People affected by street homelessness/rough sleeping are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence and 15 times more likely to have suffered verbal abuse in the past year, and nine times more likely to take their own life than the general public.

Please read our full submission here: Written evidence to the Local Government & Communities Committee from Govan Law Centre on Homelessness 080617

The average age of death for someone who is homeless is just 47, 30 years younger than the national average.   The same problems emerge time and time again; and the most acute problems with street homelessness in Scotland are in Glasgow.

The key areas of concern are:

Local authorities fail to take a homeless application.

A local authority takes a homeless application but does not fulfil their statutory duty by offering interim/temporary accommodation whilst a full investigation is undertaken.

A local authority does not offer temporary accommodation to people while they are referred back to other local authorities.

People are not aware of their legal rights.

We appreciate there are many organisations which are involved in ending rough sleeping in Scotland, and assisting people that are unsuitably accommodated. GLC continues to work in partnership with these organisations.

We work in partnership with services like Marie Trust, Glasgow City Mission, Winter Night Shelter, Simon Community (RSVP) to assist vulnerable people, making sure they are accommodated and have their needs met.  We are in no doubt such vulnerable people would not have had the confidence in the system to approach or seek relevant support on their own.

We see a systemic failure with many local authorities throughout Scotland. The system must improve. In our experience people that are supported by our organisation are ‘favoured’ as councils are reminded of their statutory duty which if they do not provide to the homeless person or household will  lead to legal action such as judicial review in the Court of Session, which they are keen to avoid.

Sadly, people that are not supported by our organisation are often turned away and end up rough sleeping. They are already vulnerable and become more distrusting, and disengage with services. This results in a deterioration of mental health, increased morbidity, suicidal intent, addictions and self medication. This results in significant and increased cost for the NHS and other statutory services.

There is a clear legal duty to prevent homelessness and provide accommodation which many councils in Scotland often ignore in practice. We do not believe anyone should sleep rough in Scotland.  We further believe there is a moral duty to treat those whom the law does not protect, that come into Scotland, and unfortunately do not have recourse to public assistance or a statutory right to be accommodated, and treated with compassion.

There is a clear connection with Homelessness and Mental Health. It is Govan Law Centre’s strong belief that in order to address rough sleeping, Mental Health Services must be improved. Many of the people we meet who sleep rough have been let down by Mental Health Services. In order to demonstrate this we shall refer to several recent case studies.

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