Homelessness in Scotland deemed “health epidemic” by Scottish minister

The Scottish Government must do more to combat homelessness, an opposition MSP has told EN4 News.

Homelessness deaths in Scotland rose by 19% between 2017 and 2018, according to a report published this week.

The number of deaths increased from an estimated 164 to an estimated 195 over the period studied.

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton challenged the First Minister over the issue at FMQ’s on Thursday and has now said that the government’s policy implementation isn’t going far enough.

“The First Minister has outlined her plans for Housing First, and it is a good first step but 830 people in Housing First isn’t going to cure the disease of homelessness.

“Around four people a week died in 2018, a shocking statistic, and when you consider that nearly 30,000 households were assessed as homeless last year, 830 tenancies just simply won’t cut it”.

The Scottish government has been running a ‘Housing First Project’, with the goal of creating over 800 tenancies from April 2019.

Cole-Hamilton also noted the need for homelessness to be treated as a public health issue.

“This is a health epidemic, and the treatment that Housing First provides is a good model to follow, but the rollout isn’t happening fast enough and won’t be effective enough to eradicate homelessness,” he said.

“It is important to realise how many people could be put at risk if policies don’t adapt.”

The recent figures were published by the National Records for Scotland (NRS) and included those in temporary housing or with “no fixed abode” in their statistics.

(Credit: Rhi Ramsay)

Edinburgh’s death rate was higher than the national average at 42.1 deaths per million, although this was considerably lower than the rate in Glasgow and Aberdeen which were 100.5 and 67.8 per million respectively.

The jump in deaths coincided with the particularly harsh winter Scotland experienced in 2018, when “The Beast from the East” brought record low temperatures.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart claimed that the Scottish government planned to “transform” homelessness services.

In a statement, Shelter Scotland director Graeme Brown said: “Behind these shocking figures lie individual personal tragedies. People living in desperate situations ultimately failed by the system.

“It is vital that the effort to end this loss of life does not end with the publication of the figures.”

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