Coalition calls for private sector to play greater role in ending homelessness

Private landlords could play a far greater role in helping to end homelessness in Scotland, according to a new report from a coalition of homelessness and housing experts.

Releasing its new report, the Everyone Home collective set out how the private rented sector could become a more accessible option for people experiencing homelessness looking for a settled, secure place to live.

The Collective, made up of nearly 40 third sector organisations and academics, strongly welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to build 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, a mid-term commitment that would result in the delivery of 38,500 social homes by the end of this parliament in 2026.

But while social housing plays a key role in helping people end their homelessness, the private rented sector is very rarely an option.

In its new report, the group found that widening access to support and advice in private lets would help make the private rented sector more accessible to people experiencing homelessness.

It called on the Scottish Government to promote the role it sees the PRS playing in meeting current and future housing need, setting out a clear vision for the size and role the sector should play in the future tenure composition of housing in Scotland.

It also urged the Scottish Government to support local authorities – in guidance and in practice – to work productively with the PRS to reduce and resolve homelessness.

Incentives for landlords should also be considered, with the aim of improving PRS quality, access and affordability, which also to appeal to landlords who rent to lower income households.

It also recommended targeted, proactive approaches to homelessness prevention for groups which may be at greater risk of eviction, alongside the use of Scottish Government social security powers to top up support for those subject to Local Housing Allowance shortfalls in PRS who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Sarah Walters, head of best practice at homelessness charity Crisis, said: “Social housing plays a vital role in helping people end their homelessness. But while for many people a social tenancy is the right option, with better support we know the private rented sector could play a far greater role in helping people find a safe, secure place to live.

“With numbers of people trapped in temporary accommodation at an all-time high, and with a shortage of affordable housing in Scotland, we need to use every option available to us and the private rented sector can help. People experiencing homelessness deserve the same choice and control as anyone else, but we know that they are far too often locked out of the private rented sector. By reducing barriers and providing support, we can help people end their homelessness and strengthen our communities.”

Maggie Brünjes, chief executive of Homeless Network Scotland, said: “There are many factors that influence the choices we make about our housing. From size and type, to location and accessibility, to time and cost.

“People who experience homelessness must have access to the same range of housing options as other members of the public. For some people, the private rented sector offers the right choice, in the right place at the right time. For this reason, it is in everyone’s interest to work together to ensure the PRS is a viable and affordable option.”

A ‘route forward for the private rented sector’ (Everyone Home collective; Aug 2023) is available to download here. For a briefing and to discuss the route-map, a webinar is being held on 24 August, 10.30-11.30 with speakers including Patrick Harvie MSP. To join the webinar please register here.

Housing First Europe Conference to be held in Scotland

An international conference is being held in Glasgow on 27 April 2023, bringing together housing and homelessness leaders from across Europe who are committed to redressing housing disadvantage through the Housing First approach.

The event is hosted by the Housing First Europe Hub, who work to support a shift to Housing First as the first and central response to homelessness across Europe through advocacy, training, practice, research, support and communication activities.

The Hub was established in 2016 by the Y-Foundation (Finland) and FEANTSA (the European Federation of National Organisations Working with Homeless People) along with more than 15 partners. Since then, the Hub has grown to include more than 37 organisations, cities, government ministries, housing providers and researchers from across Europe and beyond. Scotland associates are the Rock Trust, Turning Point Scotland, Simon Community Scotland and Homeless Network Scotland who have worked in partnership with the Hub to host this year’s event in Scotland.

On Thursday 27 April 2023, the event will open for delegates from across Scotland to join the discussions – and we warmly welcome colleagues from all sectors who are working in and around homelessness in Scotland. Here’s an outline of the programme:



09:30 Welcome from the Housing First Europe Hub

09:45 What’s next for Housing First in Scotland? Speakers from Scottish Government and Homeless Network Scotland

10:30 Roundtable Introductions

10:45 BREAK

11:00 Making the Shift. How are housing providers, support providers and local authorities shifting to a Housing First approach?

World-cafe style, moving between roundtables – sharing insights and approaches.

12:30 LUNCH

13:30 System Change – learning from experience.

14:15 Roundtable Discussions

14:30 Plenary Session

15:30 CLOSE

The free event is taking place at The Renfield Centre, 260 Bath St, Glasgow G2 4JP. Places are limited, please book your place here selecting the tick-box ‘April 27th’ and entering your name, organisation and dietary requirements.

The Big Ask: acting now to prevent homelessness

A summary of the key themes from a webinar hosted by Homeless Network Scotland on 21 February 2023 which was attended by over 120 colleagues from 19 local authorities, from the NHS, health and social care partnerships, housing associations, academia and the third sector.

In a cost-of-living crisis with rising homelessness, confirmation that the new homelessness prevention duties will be included in the housing bill in the second half of 2023 provides some much-needed optimism – or at least anticipation.

Homeless Network Scotland are among those who have been involved at different stages in the development of the duties and we are strongly committed to ensuring that as many people as possible are consulted and briefed on the duties and their implications.

The purpose of ‘The Big Ask: acting now to prevent homelessness’ webinar was to update on the expected timeline of the duties. And further, to explore what more can be done now to prevent homelessness by learning from 3 important insights – lived experience, the third sector, local places.

1. Prevention: what did the Christie Commission say?

The christie commission is a rare example of a report that both unified and articulated a diverse range of perspectives about the future delivery of public services. Published over a decade ago, it still reads as if it was an analysis of today. On prevention, the christie commission said:

  • The adoption of preventative approaches, in particular approaches which build on the active participation of service users and communities, will contribute significantly to making the best possible use of money and other assets.
  • Such approaches will help to eradicate duplication and waste and, critically, take demand out of the system over the longer term.
  • Maximise scarce resources by utilising all available resources from the public, private and third sectors, individuals, groups and communities.

The webinar was opened in this context, with the package presented reaching across these themes.

2. Prevention of Homelessness: what type?

With such a wide range of activity potentially contributing to preventing homelessness, an organising framework – the 5-Stage Typology of Homelessness Prevention – was developed by colleagues at Heriot-Watt and Cardiff universities and which defines activity as follows:

The prevention of homelessness duties, combined with existing homelessness duties, would span stages 2-5. The learning presented and themes discussed in this webinar span the same stages 2-5.

3. What is expected in the Housing Bill?

The prevention duties will be included in the housing bill which is expected to be published in the second half of 2023 with the intention to strengthen housing rights and to include:

  • Wider public bodies to ‘ask and act’ about housing situations.
  • Local authorities to take reasonable steps to prevent homelessness (with the steps set out in either secondary legislation or statutory guidance).
  • Referrals from public bodies to be treated as an application for assistance by the local authority.
  • Window for homelessness risk extended from 2 to 6 months.
  • Aligning homelessness assessment with prevention assessment, recognising households may balance between both.
  • Changes to the definition of domestic abuse and the need for social landlords to have a domestic abuse policy.
  • Assessment of housing support needs to be included in local homelessness strategy  and/or Local Housing Strategy.

4. Three key insights

The webinar welcomed the insights from lived experience, the third sector and from local places on what works to prevent homelessness. This was invited from:

(i) Learning From Lived Experience

Shea Moran, who represented the Change Team, reflected on the work of their Prevention Commission, which shaped the recommendations of the Prevention Review Group’s final report. Shea articulated the importance of ensuring through the new duties that people who experience or are at risk of homelessness, especially young people, do not have expectations or responsibilities on them that do not apply to other members of the public.

(ii) Learning From the Third Sector

Pauline Kerrigan from The National Lottery Community Fund shared the learning from the fund’s strategic investment in homelessness which was intended to respond to their own findings that homelessness is a priority at local level, while complementing a strategic priority for government. Uniquely, the process included peer review across the applicants so that the issues most important to the sector as a whole could be funded.

(iii) Learning From Local Places

Andy Peline from SWAMP reflected on his involvement with the Staying In programme which took a place-based approach to preventing homelessness. In this project, popular community organisations who were not ‘homelessness’ organisations were invited to ‘Ask and Act’: to ask about housing, and to act to prevent homelessness where there was a risk. Andy shared how this was done at point of initial contact and that mirroring the prevention duties informally at community level was very effective at preventing homelessness.

All homelessness starts in a community, which means that local places can play a pivotal role to help prevent it. However the risk of homelessness is not equal, with some people and places more affected than others. Places that are most affected also need to see more progress in the bigger factors that create homelessness. Preventing homelessness starts here:

5. … and six key themes from discussion

Some of us will have an enhanced duty to prevent homelessness. Some of us will have a new duty to prevent homelessness. And some of us will have no specific duty – but want to help. The following key themes emerged from the feedback that was shared in the breakout rooms:

  • The ‘Ask and Act’ duties were coined by the prevention commission and so are well informed by what people closest to the issues, people with lived experience and frontline responsibilities, think will work best to prevent homelessness earlier.
  • We need a strong balance that focuses on both parts of the duties, ask and act. In many cases, the public sector will need to act after asking about housing. In other cases and at earlier stages, a household can be enabled to act to resolve their own housing situation. Routine enquiry and a supportive line of questions will maximise that outcome – asking the right questions sensitively to get to the root of the problem. Guidance and training will be key.
  • Although the duty to ask and act will not be on communities and community-based organisations, it will be important to encourage a local role to prevent homelessness earlier and closer to home. As well as the range of local groups and services that people connect with, communities host housing activists, community champions, connectors and others with an interest in local housing who want to be involved in preventing homelessness in their area.  
  • It has been demonstrated that good outcomes are possible when subject experts (on housing and homelessness) collaborate with local experts and people with lived experience to problem solve at a local level. Adopting a place-based approach to preventing homelessness means connecting with existing community groups and networks to help identify housing issues earlier. This can be a simple two step approach of asking about housing and acting on what people tell you – mirroring the prevention duties.
  • Cementing preventing homelessness as a priority outcome in Local Outcomes Improvement Plans can help non-statutory and place-based approaches to branch out right across communities in Scotland. LOIPs are the mechanism by which Community Planning Partnerships deliver improved outcomes for their communities.
  • Preventing homelessness will be radically more cost-effective in the longer term. But the potential will be limited if the transition is not resourced properly in the short-to-medium term. This can also harness the enthusiasm for prevention more widely, with some services already reshaping and shifting towards a more upstream approach in anticipation of the new duties.

You can view the slides from the webinar here.

2023: Easy Does It

Maggie Brunjes, Chief Executive of Homeless Network Scotland, on why we must commit to making it easier to end homelessness in Scotland.

Scotland is legally committed to everyone having a home to build and live their lives. But has so far lacked the systems – and in some places, resources – to achieve that. That’s the bottom line.

There can be few things in life as stressful as being homeless or at risk of losing your home. Some who experience it also encounter a system of services and information difficult to navigate, or even to locate.

All worsened by a pandemic, world events and a cost-of-living crisis creating global stress that will continue to impact at a local and personal level in ways that we probably still don’t fully understand. As 2022 was drawing to a close, the impact of this relentless stress on people who work in or around housing and homelessness was very clear.

When systems don’t work for people – they also severely affect the people working in the system.

So what needs to give?

To keep improving a system is to make it easier, better, faster, cheaper. And in that order.

That’s the accepted wisdom of world leading engineers adopted by experts on system improvement. The social sector, concerned with people and not products, is more complex, but we have plenty to gain from adopting a better method of improving local systems in ways that make it easier to put people first.

Specifically for the homelessness sector, we can recognise that starting at the end of this sequence – making it cheaper and faster – does not work, although we regularly see it attempted in ways that include:

  • The market that has been allowed to underpin health and social care services pushing services to drop prices, to compete for new contracts or hold on to existing ones. A zero-sum game; cheaper, but not always better or even easier.  
  • In some parts of the country, rough sleeping has been swapped for lives being lived out of hotel rooms or in unsuitable temporary accommodation. While the enormous efforts of local authority and third sector colleagues to hold firm significant reductions in rough sleeping should be lauded, we also know from experience that long periods in close quarters builds stress and fatigue, damages relationships and forces the hand around issues like risk and autonomy. And as a response, it’s neither easier, better, faster or cheaper.
  • The cost and private profit reaped at the expense of lives in limbo. Year after year, the go-to providers of temporary accommodation in some places remain so because of the corner we’re backed into, and the difficulty managing a safe transition. Not easier or better, or cheaper.
  • Uniformity. Poverty drives housing inequality and goes hand in hand with things like our age, our gender, our ethnicity. Increasing our collective knowledge and competence around equality, at policy, commissioning and practice level, can help us leave behind the blanket approaches that ultimately make lives harder. 

There is a constant call on the housing and homelessness sector to achieve ‘pace and scale’ to resolve the injustice of homelessness. Which is right – we do need pace, and we do need scale and across many fronts: in housing supply and access, in reducing the reliance on temporary accommodation.  In the responses that we know work, like rapid rehousing, Housing First, residential rehabilitation, cash-first autonomy. And we need pace and scale to resolve access to the services that are too hard to reach – like mental health services and to ensure no wrong door for people braving a range of challenges. Notably, we need pace and scale on all this because we understand these big actions to resolve homelessness will also prevent it, a virtuous cycle.

But it will take more than more houses to achieve pace and scale. To create the right conditions, we must also commit to making it easier for people working in the housing and homelessness sector.

How do we do that? Local Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans have been shown to be the right mechanism to chart a route away from over reliance on temporary accommodation, and towards earlier prevention. For 2023, we need to commit to:

Make it easier:

  • Reach across sectors on the big questions of supply and demand for housing and services. There’s much to learn from each other, and solidarity we can provide each other.
  • Prioritise and protect the time needed to build positive and trusted relationships – with people tapping into services, and across the range of professional relationships too.
  • Trust the decision-making competence of people who support people – those who do it well need higher reward in pay, profile and influence.
  • Call out when organisational self-interest and egotism is to the detriment of local outcomes. Those that are motivated for the wrong reasons are in the wrong place and will hold us back.
  • Rethink paperwork, assessments, sharing data and attitudes to risk.

And make it better:

  • Be guided by evidence and experience about what works and what matters most to people. Innovation is great, but the most evidenced and effective solutions to homelessness are intuitive and straightforward.
  • Value more structured and facilitated conversations – creating spaces for shared learning with tight feedback loops to close the gap between policy intentions and what actually happens on the ground. Committees, taskforces, groups and subgroups have their place, but there are better environments to really learn and deliver together.
  • Take collective responsibility to recognise and help the areas with the biggest challenges. How can we achieve cross authority approaches to better target knowledge, resources and infrastructure.

All things are difficult before they are easy. But combined, making our work easier and better provides the conditions for pace, scale and cost effectiveness.  From 2023, we must commit to making it easier to end homelessness and give each other a better chance of achieving progress at the pace and scale we want. By doing so, we will make it easier, better and faster for people facing a housing crisis too.

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.