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Beth Reid @crisisscotland Policy Manager (Scotland)

Are things improving for single people who are homeless in Scotland?

Scotland is an international leader in its approach to tackling homelessness. As of the end of 2012, everyone in Scotland who becomes homeless through no fault of their own is entitled to a permanent home.

It is single people who stood to gain the most from Scotland’s progressive approach to homelessness. Single homeless people have been disadvantaged by the system of support in the past, which is why, as the national charity for single homeless people, Crisis has always worked to improve support for this group in particular.

Crisis recently published our latest research report on single homelessness in Scotland. It shows that the vast majority of people who need homeless support from their council in Scotland continue to be single. They have different experiences of homelessness to families, and may often be more vulnerable.

Yet while single people are now entitled to accommodation, they still receive less support. They are more likely to find themselves housed for long periods in hostels and B&Bs. Fewer than half of single homeless people who go to their council for support receive a settled home at the end of the journey – just 47%, compared to 66% of families. And the services offered to single homeless people vary considerably across local authorities.

Some of these people may be able to find other ways to solve their homelessness of course.  But others may find that they can’t get the help they need from the council or may lose contact with the council while they are trying to sort out their homelessness – councils are more than twice as likely to lose touch with single people compared to families.

The reasons for these issues are, of course, complex. In our work with councils across Scotland we recognise the severe pressures they are under. We also hear daily from people about the problems they face finding a lasting home and we walk with them on the journey as they try to sustain their lives in the meantime.

The study raises important questions about the nature of single homelessness in Scotland, how to best support people who have a variety of needs, and how to ensure that people can get support that ends their homelessness no matter where they are within Scotland.

As Scotland’s groundbreaking legislation beds in, Crisis wants to see an overarching review of how homelessness support is working, to make sure that the ambition of the legislation is matched by the ambition of homelessness practice.

It is not just the responsibility of homelessness and housing services. People’s lives are complex and they will often need support from a range of services working closely together to address the issues that have resulted in their homelessness and prevent it happening in future.

With further cuts to housing benefit and social security on the horizon, we need now more than ever to address these issues. Only when do so will we end homelessness in Scotland.