FEARS have been raised about the lack of emergency homeless accommodation in Glasgow that has seen vulnerable people turned away from the Winter Night Shelter with sleeping bags because it is full.
The Glasgow City Mission, which runs the shelter – hosted by the Lodging House Mission in the city’s east end – confirmed it had “been at – or over capacity” for the last week. It is understood 53 people presented to the shelter, which has 40 mattresses on the floor, on Tuesday night. Four were given hot drinks and sleeping bags and remained in the foyer to keep them off the streets while others left or were turned away.
Govan Law Centre has now raised “significant concerns” with the Scottish Housing Regulator, which in December last year announced it was launching an inquiry into Glasgow City Council’s failure to meet its statutory duty to provide emergency accommodation to homeless people.
The law centre claims that the shortage of accommodation is due to cuts to homeless services of £2.6 million made last September, which saw the closure of several supported accommodation units and a loss of almost 100 beds. In 2018, two other services – Rodney Place and Clyde Place, with 84 beds between them – were closed, with most of the residents moved into Housing First properties. Under the Scotland-wide Housing First scheme tenancies are provided with wrap-round support.
But now it is claimed that waiting times for those in the shelter have increased this winter, with an average time of more than three nights for Scottish and other UK guests and more than nine for others.
In an email to the regulator, Alistair Sharp (right), senior project manager at Govan Law Centre, claimed that Glasgow Council Health and Social Care Partnership (GCHSCP) accused the council of creating a “revolving door” of homelessness by closing supported accommodation. Vulnerable homeless people were being put in unsuitable B&Bs, he said, ejected for breaking rules and ending up in the night shelter. They then had to wait until the same fate befell another homeless person, freeing up a bed sometimes in the same B&B or hostel they had left.
“The £2.6m of cuts made last year are making their impact felt,” he said. “I think it was naively thought that Housing First would be enough but vulnerable people with mental and physical health issues are now being put in inappropriate B&Bs and hostels when they should have been in supported accommodation. These beds should never have been cut.”
Glasgow City Council said 101 people have already been placed in Housing First properties, with 50 more “in the pipeline”. However, the average waiting time until moving into a Housing First property in Glasgow is 112 days (more than 3.5 months).
Charles Maasz, chief executive of the Glasgow City Mission, said: “It does seem that there is a lack of suitable temporary accommodation options for a number of our regular night shelter guests. We’ve been at, or beyond, capacity in the last week and at some points, we’ve been providing a seat, a hot drink, and some comfort for people in the foyer to get them out of the cold.”
“It’s very difficult in these circumstances to make someone feel valued, loved and treated like a human being – which is what our staff and volunteer teams aim to do.” He added: “We will continue to work in a space where there are cracks in the system, in an attempt to stop people falling through them.”
Stephen Mitchell, day centre manager at the Lodging House Mission, agreed that the decision to shift funding away from supported accommodation in order to focus more on a Housing First model, “whilst good in principle, has to be well executed and implemented for it to have the desired effect”.
“Frontline workers can only do their best,” he added. “But when the starting position is such that they are being asked to work with little or no resources, poor outcomes become routine. This is not good enough. People deserve better.”
A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said: “Throughout its history, the Glasgow City Mission night shelter has rarely operated at full capacity. This exceptional situation has only occurred within the last nine days and is not related to colder weather conditions. The council has welcomed the Scottish Housing Regulator to the city and is currently working constructively with it. A total of 101 individuals have so far been housed by Housing First within their own supported tenancies. A further 50 additional people are in the pipeline to receive our multi-agency support.”
The Scottish Housing Regulator confirmed its inquiry is ongoing, with findings expected by the end of May.