The leader of Dundee City Council has pledged that the authority will engage more with homeless people after a council officer said many were “career beggars”.
John Alexander said Dundee did not have a “significant issue” with rough sleepers – but conceded that beggars would not choose to “sit on a cold, wet street if they felt they had an alternative”.
A report issued this week by Shelter Scotland found homelessness applications have increased in Dundee by 9% in the last year.
In one case study, Dundee City Council “persisted” in refusing a homeless person accommodation until the charity intervened.
Michelle Harrow, Shelter Scotland’s Dundee manager, said her team was “stretched to the limit”.
Mr Alexander said there was “extensive work” under way to help those without a roof over their head.
He said: “Our housing staff and partners actively work to identify and work with anyone reported or identifying as rough sleeping, to get them a roof over their heads. No one should be on the streets.
“Our city is a compassionate city and while we can dismiss or overlook issues sometimes, I know that people in every community want the best for people.”
Dundee works with housing associations to help rehome those presenting as homeless, and avoids putting people up in B&Bs, a common practice elsewhere in Scotland.
Mr Alexander was speaking after Dundee’s city centre manager, Sarah Craig, said that “not a single” person in Dundee was homeless because the council proactively requests accommodation for all those who present as homeless, for which she faced criticism from charities.
Mr Alexander said: “There is a distinction between those who are roofless – rough sleeping – and those that are homeless.
“Anyone, and I mean anyone, can find themselves in a homeless situation – but not everyone will be ‘roofless’.
“It’s fair to say that Dundee does not have a significant issue with rough sleepers.”
Since the Tele published her comments, made at a public meeting last month, Ms Craig has deleted her Twitter account, which used the handle @DundeeCCManager.
Last month, a call was made for temporary housing debts run up by homeless people in Dundee to be written off.
The plea was made during a debate on options for the homeless at a meeting of Dundee City Council, and in the wake of the controversy stirred up by Ms Craig after she dubbed rough sleepers “career beggars.”
Members of the council’s neighbourhood services committee discussed the council’s Housing Options and Homelessness Strategic Plan earlier this week.
Labour councillor Michael Marra called for debt run up to pay for temporary accommodation by homeless people to be written off.
He said: “The cost of temporary accommodation for homeless people in Dundee is only adding to a terrible cycle of indebtedness.”