Remembering Marion Gibbs

Remembering Marion Gibbs who died on 7 December 2022

Marion was at the very centre of Scotland’s housing sector. For over 30 years, her life’s work was focused on those in the most housing need; people affected by homelessness, overcrowding and those in unsuitable, unsafe or temporary accommodation.  

Marion cared deeply for those issues, but heartily resisted any maudlin or sentiment around it. She was driven instead by a sense of equality and fairness, by what’s right. She was a leading champion for how good law and policy should be used to protect, defend and enable people.

Marion especially cherished her role at Scottish Government that she took up in 2009. It represented to her a position where she could best put to good use her culmination of experience and knowledge. She was not what you would call a typical civil servant. She knew so much yet wore that knowledge lightly. Her equal grasp of the strategic big picture combined with a grounded understanding of how things worked in the real world – all shared with clarity and warmth in equal measure – won the deep trust and respect of Ministers and colleagues alike. She so precisely articulated the responsibility of national and local government in ensuring everyone has a home and was also so pivotal within the structures to deliver on it.

Recently Marion contributed to a journal being published to mark a key policy milestone. It is no surprise that her article was about the importance of partnership and trust, on keeping momentum going and on working together. She was the sector’s go-to for information, advice and insight. She really shone as a regular and popular conference chair, keynote speaker and expert panellist within and beyond Scotland – leading debates and discussions in her deep Aberdonian brogue.

A life’s work involves not just advocating for progress but also defending against anything that takes us backwards. Marion did both persuasively, collaboratively and tirelessly and never shied away from speaking truth to power. There are less than a handful of people in Scotland who have been involved in such an important landscape and spanning such an important period. Marion was not just one of them, she was the lynchpin.

We owe her a lot and we’ll miss her.


Marion’s family are holding a private funeral service next week, while a bigger celebration will be held in Spring so that everyone who wants to will have the opportunity to come together and pay tribute. We hope to share more details of that event in the new year.

Lorna Gibbs has set up a charity fundraiser for Stonewall in loving memory of her partner which is welcoming donations here.

Blog: The Very Best of Intentions

Homeless Network Scotland launched the first of a series of conversations that will continue through 2023. The growing pressure of the ‘permacrisis’ mobilised a wide range of voluntary action, in city centres and communities, to help people most affected. But with no benchmark or guidelines on delivering this – how can we be sure that doing good, is good enough? ‘The very best of intentions: when does good do harm?’ is intended to create the space for those that want to explore together the dilemmas and opportunities. Grant Campbell, Head of Partnerships and Consulting, welcomed over 40 people to the first conversation last week and blogs about his starting point for this big conversation.

My morning waking up routine, for more years than I can remember, has been to switch on the telly and watch Breakfast news. While probably not as productive as yoga or a morning run, it’s my routine. I’ve always felt that at the start of each day I wanted to be sighted on the news and current affairs, particularly since it can have a profound impact on the work that I do.

However, over the last couple of months something changed in my routine. I felt a genuine sense of hopelessness watching the news. Story after story leaving me more frustrated and disheartened about society. From war in Europe to fuel poverty, food insecurity, broken economy, unions striking, all part of our ‘cost of living crisis.’

To keep my sanity, I’ve switched to Channel 4 in the morning where they have reruns of ‘Cheers’. It feels a bit dated and at times it wanders into humour which shouldn’t have been acceptable in the 80’s, but it was. Anyway, it’s my escape.

Most news channels look for that ‘happy’ news story they can share each morning, and particularly over Christmas there is a search for ‘heart-warming’ stories to remind us how good people really are. There’s a focus on charitable work, the impact it has for good and how the viewing public can support it.

Take the example of those that work in and around the issue of homelessness in Scotland. While I’d argue that there is a lot of work to be done and we won’t rest until it’s ended (that’s possible by the way, but a conversation for another blog) the landscape has improved considerably. Rough sleeping figures in Glasgow and Edinburgh significantly down; evidence led work such as ‘Housing First’ becoming the norm; a prevention focus with new prevention duties; and defining what ‘unsuitable’ accommodation is and removing it from the system. We’ve seen the shift away from the need for winter night shelters with mattresses on the floor and a move to emergency welcome centres. If you want a more in-depth read into what’s changed over the last ten years here’s a journal from contributors across Scotland.

What was learned over decades is that what works for people who are homeless is what works for everyone. We all want a safe and secure home to live in, we want enough income to live, whether that’s benefits or salary, we want to be able to live, not just survive. We want to be as healthy as we can be, both physically and mentally. Finally, we want positive and supportive relationships around us.

Yet sometimes, a different approach is proposed for people who are homeless – sometimes its delivered, and sometimes it is even supported by politicians, businesses, the general public. Our new conversation series is to help cast some light on why good intentions are not enough when responding to big social challenges like poverty, social isolation and homelessness. And why, without the right knowledge and partnerships, good intentions can even cause harm.

We had a lively first conversation, with inputs from colleagues from Heriot-Watt university, Simon Community Scotland, Transform Community Development in Dundee and Help the Homeless Glasgow. We scratched the surface of the following themes, and committed to further developing each of them during 2023:

  • Why is all ‘charity’ or voluntary action portrayed as positive, even those with low-bar standards?
  • What happens when we centre the motivations of ‘givers’ over the impact on people receiving?
  • Why do people use foodbanks, on-street soup kitchens or ask passers-by for money?  What are the alternatives?
  • What do politicians do that helps – and hinders?
  • How can the third sector lead on framing the issues to discourage the use of old tropes and stereotypes?
  • How can we help voluntary action to be pioneering and trailblazing, rather than resurrecting old practices?

I find hope looking at what’s changed and a focus on what works. I think the context in a cost-of-living crisis can make this all harder – but it also raises the stakes. What we heard at the first conversation is real intention to build on what works and what matters. I hope to see you 2023 as this vital conversation develops. Contact me at to get involved.

Too Many, Too Young: Deaths while Homeless in Scotland

In November, the National Records of Scotland published the annual homeless death figures report, which estimates that 250 people died while experiencing homelessness in Scotland in 2021. This is at a similar level to 2020, but higher compared to 2017, when these statistics were first collected.

Most recorded deaths (81%) were among men. 72% of women who died were under 45, a higher proportion than men of whom 58% were under 45.

There were an estimated 127 deaths attributed to drug use among people experiencing homelessness. While this is a fall over the past year, drug use still accounts for 51% of all deaths while homeless. Suicide accounted for 9% and alcohol-specific deaths 7%. It is important to highlight there can be overlaps between suicides and drug-related deaths as a death can be counted as both.

There are 3 important points to highlight from the report that have been misreported in some places:

1. Deaths were not ‘on the streets’ but mainly in temporary accommodation. This matters because it reflects the reality of people’s experience of homelessness in Scotland, which is mostly not outdoors, but in temporary places waiting for a settled home.

2. This distinction also demonstrates where energy and resources need targeted to end homelessness in Scotland. More settled, affordable homes for people to build and live their lives. Less time waiting, with more 1:1 support for people to draw from.

3. Full focus should also be on the many missed opportunities. For those at the sharpest end, homelessness follows adversity and poor health – for some people, right back to childhood. People need rapid access to joined up services and a No Wrong Door approach.

You can read the full National Records of Scotland Report on Homeless Deaths 2021 by clicking here.

Go well, David Kidd

Homeless Network Scotland are today bidding the fondest farewell to David Kidd as he moves on to Scottish community justice organisation Sacro. David has been been an important and popular part of our team for over 12 years and so it provides us with some consolation that we’ll be able to continue to work together in a new way. Read David’s reflections below.

    “When I joined Homeless Network, or GHN as it was then known, as a fresh faced 20-something (with no grey hair…) back in 2010, I couldn’t have come close to predicting just how amazing an opportunity it would come to be.

    In the 12 and a half years since, I feel incredibly privileged to have been involved in countless projects and partnerships helping to give shape to a new approach to homelessness in Scotland that puts people at the centre. Whilst there is still lots of work to be done, and lots of highly capable people in the sector that I also feel privileged to be able to count as close friends and colleagues to do it, the time has come for me to move on.

    I’ll be forever grateful to everyone I have worked with over the years, both inside of Homeless Network and out, for everything – for their passion, their enthusiasm, their support and guidance, their occasional shoulder to cry on, but, most of all, for their friendship.

    Fortunately, I’m not going far, and I look forward to continuing to work with many of you in my new role as we continue to shape the future of social services in Scotland with people at the centre of them.”

    Scottish Government: Ending Homelessness Together Annual Report 2022

    The Scottish Government annual report to Parliament on the Action Plan was published Thursday 20 October: Ending Homelessness Together: Annual report to the Scottish Parliament October 2022 (

    The report summarises progress towards meeting the commitments made in the Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan. The Measurement Task and Finish Group (co-chaired by Homeless Network Scotland and the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland) will make recommendations for how future annual reports can focus on impact, so that we will understand more about what’s working. 

    A few key points from the annual report:

    • Hidden Homelessness – Scottish Government is commissioning research  to understand more about the experiences of people who don’t approach the local authority for support and are therefore hidden from the official homelessness statistics. Scottish Government is also working with the Office for National Statistics to develop novel methods of collecting data on these groups.
    • Local connection – if approved by Parliament, the legislative changes will come into force on 29 November which means that Scottish local authorities will from that date no longer have the power to refer a person who is homeless or threatened with homelessness to another local authority in Scotland on the grounds of their local connection.
    • Homelessness prevention – the Housing Bill detail will be announced next year, timings still to be confirmed. There will be a consultation before final decisions are made. Some existing grants for local authorities are going to be restructured so that prevention work is a more significant requirement. 
    • No wrong door – highlighting the importance of the development to the prevention duties and person-centred approaches.
    • National Care Service – it is not proposed that the housing or homelessness functions of local authorities should transfer to the National Care Service. However, the report sets out how important it is that social care support services work effectively alongside other services, including across housing and homelessness. 
    • Housing as a human right – a new Human Rights Bill including the right to adequate housing will be introduced this parliamentary session. The Scottish Government will consult on the proposals for the Bill in 2023.

    The full action plan is here.