Homeless charities across Dundee have said care must be taken to avoid a situation where people are swept into poverty and homelessness as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Urgent actions taken during Covid-19 mean rough sleeping is almost “non-existent” on the streets of Scotland, homeless charities across the country have claimed, but there are concerns there could be a spike in the numbers of people presenting as homeless if people lose their jobs in the months to come.
During a virtual session of Holyrood’s equalities and human rights committee, Claire Frew, policy and impact manager at Homeless Network Scotland, said latest estimates show there are currently less than 30 people sleeping rough across Scotland as a result of moves to open up hotels to house the homeless.
Dundee City Council leader John Alexander said in the Tele earlier this week that the city had been held up as an “exemplar” in how to deal combat rough sleeping and keep numbers at a minimum – and had used solutions to help the homeless during the current crisis.
Michelle Harrow, manager of the Shelter Scotland Dundee Community Hub, agreed that the council has responded “well” to the immediate need to get people into accommodation but stressed these measures are “only temporary”.
She said: “People can’t go on living in B&Bs or hotels forever and there must be a managed transition to ensure people move on into permanent tenancies and no one goes back to sleeping rough.
Rough sleeping is only the tip of the iceberg with thousands more homeless but living in temporary furnished flats or overcrowded or unsuitable housing.
“This health crisis has exposed the shortage of safe, secure and affordable homes and for a long term solution we must put building new homes for social rent at the heart of the recovery from the pandemic.”
“There is potential for an increase in the numbers of people struggling to pay their rent or mortgage and a “real threat of homelessness”, according to Shirish Patel, chief executive of the Dundee Survival Group.
However, he stressed that the city currently has “sufficient” temporary accommodation for homeless people, the crisis does offer a “good time to reflect” on how to improve going forward.
He said: “As we come out of Covid-19 and lockdown, we’re working closely with those with a history of homelessness and looking to provide them support on a more consistent basis.
“It’s a good opportunity to have a more positive dialogue with people that have suffered homelessness in the past.”
Poverty campaigner and Tele columnist Ewan Gurr has said he fears the real toll on the people of the city could become worse in the weeks and months ahead as we deal with the coronavirus fall-out.
“My big concern is that the numbers will escalate then and people may only be one missed bill away from being in poverty,” he said.