Shelter Scotland in urgent appeal to help homeless this winter

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A homelessness charity has launched a public appeal for help to alleviate the “crisis” in Scotland this winter.

Shelter Scotland said new analysis indicates the number of people recorded as homeless across Britain has reached 307,000.

In Scotland, official figures show 28,297 households were assessed as homeless last year and at any one time there were 10,873 households in temporary accommodation.

The charity said an estimated 5,000 people sleep rough on Scotland’s streets throughout the year and has launched an urgent appeal.

Alison Watson, deputy director of Shelter Scotland, said the number of homeless people is “shocking”.

She said: “Some will have spent the night sleeping rough on our streets or in unsuitable temporary accommodations while others were crammed into dingy hostels or bed and breakfasts – some with their children. Shockingly, many are simply unaccounted for.

“On a daily basis, we speak to hundreds of people and families who are desperately trying to escape the devastating trap of homelessness.

“A trap that is tightening thanks to decades of failure to build enough affordable homes and the impact of harsh welfare cuts which are now, for many, being compounded by the roll-out of Universal Credit.

“As this crisis continues to unfold, the work of our frontline services remains absolutely critical. We will do all we can to make sure no one is left to fight homelessness on their own.

“But we cannot achieve this alone – we urgently need the public’s support to be there for everyone who needs us this winter.”

Scottish Labour’s housing spokesperson Pauline McNeill called on the Scottish Government to “start seriously tackling the rough sleeping crisis”.

She said: “These figures reveal the distressing scale of the homelessness crisis we face in this country.

“There shouldn’t be anyone in Scotland in 2017 forced to sleep on the streets or rely on temporary accommodation to house themselves and their families.

“That almost 30,000 Scottish households were homeless last year is a damning indictment of the austerity policies pursued by the Tories in Westminster and passed on by the SNP in Holyrood.”

She added: “The SNP must use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to put an end to the austerity policies that are driving people into homelessness and start seriously tackling the rough sleeping crisis.”

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “This is more evidence that UK Government welfare cuts are causing major hardship and housing insecurity for many people.

“We established a short-term homelessness and rough sleeping action group, chaired by chief executive of Crisis Jon Sparkes and including Shelter, which will recommend immediate steps we can take to minimise rough sleeping, both this winter and for good, as well as ways to transform temporary accommodation.

“This will be backed by our commitment to a £50 million Ending Homelessness Together fund and an extra £20 million on addiction services from next year.”

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