Amid growing concern about the impact of COVID on the housing and financial situation of thousands of Scots, 31 organisations in the Everyone Home Collective are urging people in communities and those running local services to prevent homelessness closer to home in 2021 and beyond.
On the basis that all homelessness starts in a community, Everyone Home, which includes charities and leading academics, has published a detailed Route Map to protect people’s housing in communities across Scotland.
With this increased focus on prevention the collective is appealing to health professionals, community planning partnerships, community councils, local authorities and grass roots services, groups and networks to inspire local conversations in 2021 aimed at preventing homelessness before it starts.
Maggie Brünjes, Chief Executive of Homeless Network Scotland, said: “In 2021 there will be more pressure on people’s finances, our relationships and our coping strategies due to the pandemic. These are also the circumstances that can create homelessness, at a time when frontline services are pushed to the brink. All homelessness starts in a community — communities also host many brilliant local groups and services that could reach and support people earlier, and closer to home. Local conversations that simply ‘ask about housing’ can reduce stress and worry and help improve people’s housing situation before it escalates into homelessness.”
This latest Route Map, the fourth to be produced by Everyone Home since the collective was launched in May, identifies the factors that increase the chance of homelessness and the protecting factors that can help prevent it.
The collective is inviting more local conversations with two clear objectives:
• Ask about housing
When people you connect with or provide a service to have money worries or problems at home, ask about housing and listen to what would help.
• Act on what people tell you
Make introductions to local advice and support services and encourage people to get help. The quicker people act, the more chance there is of preventing homelessness.
Ewan Aitken, Chief Executive of Cyrenians (Edinburgh), commented: “It’s not right that people have had to go through the experience of homelessness before getting the support they need. We can do better.
“As well as universal measures such as a strong social security net, we should not understate the importance of relationships in preventing homelessness. Prevention at a local level is key. By empowering local communities and delivering accessible relationship-based services in ordinary settings which do not feel like ‘interventions’ we can prevent homelessness from happening in the first place.”
Deborah Hay, Scotland Policy officer Joseph Rowntree Foundation (Scotland), said: “We all need a warm, secure, home we can afford — this year has emphasised that more than ever. The pandemic has intensified the pressures facing low-income households, already struggling to keep their heads above water. At JRF we are deeply concerned that the growing economic storm will pull more people under by increasing the sort of pressures that can tip people into homelessness. But we can prevent homelessness by boosting the supply of social housing, agreeing a just approach to addressing rent arrears and by making homelessness prevention an urgent, shared priority for all local services. Working together we can identify people at risk early and get the right support in place quickly.”
Kate Polson, Chief Executive of Edinburgh’s Rock Trust, said: “At the Rock Trust we work with teachers, families and youth workers to enable them to identify and access the support and information required to prevent youth homelessness. Communities are the key to preventing homelessness as they aren’t just the place we live but they are the people we see daily. We need to think of homelessness as more than a housing issue, it’s a family, health, education and employment issue and we need to work together across communities to prevent it.”
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “It’s clear that the best way to end homelessness is to prevent it happening in the first place. This roadmap from the Everyone Home Collective is a timely reminder that while homelessness starts in the community, the solutions for addressing it lie there too.
“Homelessness isn’t inevitable — that’s why we want to make preventing homelessness a national priority. We must all work together to support people at risk of homelessness to stay in their homes or to find a safe, secure, settled home when they need it. Through joined-up services, rooted in local communities, we can make sure that when homelessness does happen, it is brief, and that it doesn’t happen again.”