After ‘2012’

I re-blogged the post below (Scotland Leads the Way) on the momentous occasion of reaching Scotland’s end-of 2012 target date for ‘ending homelessness.’  This means is that from now on there is a duty on local authorities to  provide settled accommodation to anyone who becomes unintentionally homeless. On behalf of Cyrenians I have led the hip-hoorays for all concerned in originally making and then delivering on the historic commitment made back in 2003, for it represents a historic rejection of the idea of the ‘deserving and undeserving’ (i.e. priority and non-priority) that went back to the Elizabethan Poor Laws. A landmark commitment, as well, in that it represents Scotland as a civilised and progressive society in saying that homelessness is simply unacceptable.

What is also remarkable is that the commitment came with cross-party support, surviving changes in administration and the recession. That tells me there is enough concensus on the central values and principle to hold things together as the inevitable arguments now emerge about statistics and whether the issue is being resolved or simply displaced.

Common Lodging House of the Seventies

Common Lodging House of the Seventies

I also celebrate a real and lasting culture change in the local authorities that have the lead role in delivering the commitment. It’s hard for me to convey in words how far we’ve come from the world of large-scale doss houses, soup kitchens  and rough sleeping that I came into as a volunteer in the mid-seventies, and the prejudice and stereotyping of people experiencing homelessness that went with those terrible conditions. But there’s still a long way to go and severe challenges to overcome. I mentioned previously the excellent Homelessness Monitor: Scotland produced by our friends at Crisis. Author Suzanne Fitzpatrick notes against the evidence of progress:

“It remains to be seen whether such gains can be maintained in the face of the prolonged recession, radical welfare cutbacks, and a tightening supply of affordable housing for those on low and modest incomes.”

Putting aside the things we have limited control over – social housing shortage, London driven welfare reforms and failure of the economy – in my view, there are three things that need to happen to maximise our chances of success in meeting these challenges in the next decade:

  • Re-admission of the voluntary and enterprise sector as a full partner in R&D, planning and delivery of homelessness and social inclusion: since the days of the Homelessness Task Force the sector has been pushed out into the corridor largely by the procurement and competitive tendering process. To the extent that the sector is now treated as a disposable provider rather than an expert partner. Inclusion can bring innovation, additional investment and passion to the top table
  • A stronger focus and serious investment in early intervention into the known causes of social exclusion and genuine prevention of people losing their home
  • more creative use of the assets that are there: e.g. support for under-pressure families, engagement of private rented sector housing, use of empty homes and support of new living arrangements, such as flat and home share

Happy New Year folks!

Des Ryan (CEO)

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