Twenty Twelve

To most it means Olympic Year. To some it is about the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, with an extra holiday on June 5th. More esoterically but some would say more importantly, 2012 is the International Year of Cooperatives. (maybe a direction to look for those who want caring capitalism?) The UN has designated 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All ‘to drive concrete action’ in turning our world away from the precipice. Under the wonderful slogan, ‘Together with Bats,’ the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), has deignated 2012 as The Year of the Bat to promote the wee creatures conservation.  And talking of batty things, those without better things to do are focussed on 2012 (December 21st to be precise), as the end of the world and the fulfilment of the Mayan Prophecy.

Call me parochial but since 2003, Twenty Twelve has shone on the horizon as Scotland’s target date for ‘ending homelessness’.

In 2003 the Scottish Parliament passed groundbreaking legislation stating that local authorities would have a duty to provide every unintentionally homeless person with a home by 2012.  From 1 January 2013 Councils will have a duty to accommodate all those who are found to be homeless – not just those fitting specific ‘priority need’ categories – and to provide the same level of service to all homeless people.

Homelessness should not be an acceptable feature in a civilised society. Since 2003 Scotland has been admired and respected across the world for its commitment. We’ve had visits here at Cyrenians from all over Europe, even Japan and China. The 2003 legislation and the marked progress since came from commitment and participation of public, private and voluntary sector, with cross-party support from the Parliament. I believe this remains the case? 

The realities of early 2012 are very different to those of nine years ago. Rising demand and reducing resources will make it hard to deliver. But I hope that difficulties in reaching the target don’t lead to a blame game against the Councils. My point is that we were in it together from the start and it’s only by working together that we’ll fulfil the ambition.   

Rather than blame or getting into doom mode, I suggest the ‘drive concrete action’ approach. Do what we can do. Prevent people losing their home in the first place. We’ve demonstrated how to do it. Prevent teens, where we can, from falling out of the family home into homelessness. Use the private rented sector for social housing. Get those who can into jobs so they are more resilient and able to move on. Use social enterprise to prepare people for a working life. Provide really effective help to tackle any underlying problems which un-mended will keep bringing people back into crisis.

And those are just a few examples from little Cyrenians own tool-box. Scotland is awash with good practice developed over the last decade. 2012 is still the year to end enduring homelessness in Scotland, but it will be a test of our inventiveness, solidarity in working together across sectors and collective commitment to the standard that everyone should have a home.

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