A Curious Moment: Rapid Rehousing in Scotland

Doug Gibson is Programme Manager at Homeless Network Scotland.

There’s a saying that people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in a decade.

There’s another one about how we should plan in decades, think in years, work in months, and live in days.

These may be good soundbites but they also speak to a truth, which is that a slant towards long-term planning is vital if we are going to end large-scale homelessness for good. After painstakingly drawing up five-year plans, local authorities and their partners are now underway with their transition towards rapid rehousing as the default response to homelessness.

It is a curious moment. As we arrive in the ‘20s, more and more eyes are looking to Scotland to learn from these plans and the progress being made here, while at the same time challenges continue to arise for those tasked with progressing these plans.

The changes are moving us towards permanent housing for as many people as it suits, towards a reduction in the use of costly temporary accommodation, and towards accessible and compassionate support for all who need it – to the level they need it, and for as long as they need it.

This shift – and specifically the actions within Scotland’s action plan to end homelessness and rough sleeping – will require patience and a willingness to interrogate and adapt our own processes and presumptions. We are all going to have to forgot what we think we know. It will require trust that the long-term plans are the right ones, and a shared commitment to seeing them through.

However, if the progress of 2019 is anything to go by, Scotland can look ahead to 2020 with optimism regardless of the challenges now and those still to come.

Although trends recently have been in the wrong direction with applications rising, homelessness applications have decreased 39 per cent overall since 2008/09. Five regional Housing Options Hubs have been established.

Over a third of authorities are operating Housing First to some extent, with more getting underway all the time. Assertive winter initiatives are again underway on the streets of our towns and cities to help people stay safe and warm and to further empower frontline workers.

When authorities’ five-year transition plans come to a close in 2024 new plans will be drawn up.

Homelessness will never not be an issue to some degree, but if we plan in decades and underestimate what we can do in that time then it will affect far, far fewer people when the ‘30s roll around than it does today.