Help homelessness closer to home

As people are forced to leave their homes behind in all parts of Scotland, and across many parts of the world, it can be easy to feel powerless – and difficult to know where to help. On World Homeless Day (10 October 2022), people who play a role in their local community are being urged to ‘think global – act local’ to help everyone in Scotland to have a safe place to call home.

The call coincides with the launch of findings from a test-of-change programme exploring what happened when two communities in Glasgow – Pollok and the Gorbals – set about to prevent homelessness and to share what they designed and discovered.

All homelessness starts in a community. But not all communities are at equal risk. The cost-of-living crisis and the social and economic impact of the pandemic will lead to more pressure on communities and more people becoming homeless. Work to protect homes and prevent homelessness is needed across many different fronts – including more focus at a community level.

Homeless Network Scotland wanted to test a new approach to tackle this uneven distribution of homelessness risk, at the heart of the places most affected by it. The test was to understand what happens when ‘subject experts’ collaborate with ‘local experts’ and ‘lived experience’ experts to combine knowledge, insight and problem solving at a local level.

Scottish Community Development Centre and Unity expertly guided this exploratory place-based approach and, with thanks to the National Lottery Community Fund, the partnership were able to support local people to target local investment too. 6 local partners and anchor organisations led the design and delivery of proactive new initiatives – Bridging the Gap, Dawsun, Glen Oaks Housing Association, New Gorbals Housing Association, Spider Arts and SWAMP.

All partners believe that less applications for help with homelessness were made to the local council from both communities during the period of the programme. 6 key themes and 8 key considerations have also been highlighted to help kickstart more place-based approaches to prevent homelessness earlier, and closer to home.  This includes :

  • That the enormous goodwill to help people often centres around towns and cities. But all homelessness starts in a community and acting local, in a range of different ways, can help prevent homelessness earlier, and closer to home.

  • Community Planning Partnerships should include ‘preventing homelessness’ as a priority outcome in Local Outcomes Improvement Plans and Locality Plans.

  • To harness the position and expertise of community groups and structures to:
    • Ask about housing and
    • Act to protect homes and prevent homelessness.

A place-based approach means elected members, community planning partnerships, community councils, other local governance and decision-making structures — along with the wealth of local services, groups and networks. Together we can protect homes and prevent homelessness earlier, and closer to home.

View the results of the test-of-change programme and read a blog from David Ramsay from Homeless Network Scotland. Interested in what your place can do? Get in touch for a chat with the team at Homeless Network Scotland on 0141 420 7272 or email

Staying In

All homelessness starts in a community. But not all communities are at equal risk. Homeless Network Scotland wanted to test a new approach to tackle the uneven distribution of homelessness risk, at the heart of the places most affected by it. We set about to test what happens when ‘subject experts’ collaborate with ‘local experts’ and ‘lived experience’ experts to combine knowledge, insight and problem solving at a local level. And, with thanks to the National Lottery Community fund, to understand how local investment would be targeted too. David Ramsay from Homeless Network Scotland blogs about what was designed and discovered.

Wawl, can’t believe that’s been 3 years since we launched this project. It’s been an amazing and definitively eventful time, as Covid struck just as we got the project up and running, which meant there was a delay to the project.

So let’s get back to where it all began (I think there is a song in that ).

As an organisation we have been working in local communities across Scotland promoting a placed based approach to preventing homelessness at a local level.

A placed based approach embraces a whole community and the assets that already exist in that area, so you’re right “this is not rocket science and isn’t new.” But what is new is the focus on homelessness prevention.

One question I always ask myself? Is using the language of homelessness prevention a barrier for other services out with housing to get involved in trying to protect people’s homes? If you think so, what language should we all adopt?

Homeless Network Scotland and others had a shared understanding that some of the answers to protecting people’s homes and tackling housing issues are in the community themselves, and each community is different so may need a slightly different approach. Having the flexibility to deal with the slightly changing priorities of each community is one of the main benefits to a place-based approach as the usual response is either, a local authority or national strategy.

Thankfully the National Lottery Community Fund also had the same vision as us and wanted to try and test new ways which would change culture and practice within a local setting and we were able to secure funding to test our ideas across 2 different areas in Glasgow.

We worked in partnership with Unity and Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) to deliver a new test-of-change in Greater Pollok and Gorbals which are both in the south of Glasgow. As this was the first time in Scotland that anyone had piloted a test-of-change focusing on prevention, I’m sure you can imagine I was full of excitement and slightly nervous as I wanted this to be a success.

Our approach was simple and not hard to replicate. First thing we did was create a panel of local people who either lived or worked in the area and who had a passion for supporting the local community. once you have a group of people who have the same objectives and goals it makes things so much easier.

Also, another valuable contribution was from the partners involved as well. This was crucial in moving the project forward at the right time. No one has all the answers (though my partner may disagree) the knowledge and expertise from Unity and SCDC really gave the approach we adopted so much more meaning. I also learned so much more about working with people which I’ll take forward onto the next project.

The Staying In project funded 6 organisations across both areas, this included housing associations, anchor organisations and small charities. The range of services varied which was a benefit to the local community. The value to the people who engaged with the organisations was simply the right support was on offer at the right time. I would like to see more people have this choice and control over who they engage with and not a one size fits all local authority response.

We want this to be rolled out across other areas, so it’ll be important that the right amount of time and support is allocated to smaller charities and organisations to fully get behind this approach. Its important everyone is involved throughout each stage of this process and buy in comes from health, criminal justice, local authorities, and Scottish Government. Everyone has a part to play in their local community and let’s do more of what working and keep people Staying In their local area if that is what they want.

The most important thing is that this programme achieved exciting things. We believe that less applications for help with homelessness were made to the local authority from both communities. We also discovered 6 key themes from this programme that we believe could be of interest to other place-based initiatives or inform local responses to homelessness – or could merit further research or development. And we have pointed to 8 key considerations for local partners.

Many thanks to everyone who was involved in this project and let’s hope this model can be replicated and rolled out across Scotland soon.


Read the full evaluation here.

Home for 10: Journal of Insights into Homelessness in Scotland

A collection of insights into homelessness in Scotland has been published to mark the 10-year anniversary of the 2012 commitment which had set Scotland apart internationally in how seriously it took the task of ending homelessness.

The 2012 commitment was the result of legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2003 so that everyone who is homeless would have a right to a home by 2012. For local authorities, this meant ending the assessment of whether people were ‘priority’ or ‘non-priority’ and instead giving every person who was ‘unintentionally homeless’ the right to a permanent home. This monumental change – in culture as well as legal terms – is considered to be the bedrock of Scotland’s acclaimed housing and homelessness rights.

But homelessness didn’t end in 2012, despite a promising downturn over several years that followed. A small upturn over the recent period has been coupled with the highest use of temporary accommodation on record, now understood as an unintended consequence of increasing housing rights without a corresponding increase in housing supply in the places people want to live. This has led to a series of measures from 2018-22 to adjust the course, with more focus on rapid rehousing, on prevention and on housing access and supply.

Homeless Network Scotland invited 10 of the housing and homelessness sector’s key experts with a reach backwards of at least 10 years to provide their insights – and provocations – for the wider sector. Another 10 people with a fresh perspective – or who have a vantage position and with broad oversight – were invited to describe what the way forward looks like.

The themes running through the journal underline the multi-faceted nature of homelessness and the corresponding need for versatility in responses. Contributors highlight the diversity of individual experiences and needs, along with the importance of trauma-informed approaches to support, and the power of offering flexible, personalised solutions. There are calls for systems change by streamlining and collaborating to break down siloes.

The journal highlights the impact of policy and legislation over the past decade and more – that these were not easy gains, and it will require tenacity to expand rights and entitlements based in law, to build new homes and to focus on prevention so that progress continues towards ending homelessness in the years to come.

Contributors highlighted the impact of trauma on individuals as they attempt to navigate housing and other systems. They suggest that we are still at an early stage with trauma-informed responses and, to realise fully their transformative potential, staff need greater depth of understanding. But questions are raised about workforce resilience and the sector’s struggles to recruit, train and retain the skilled staff it needs. Economic concerns are not confined to the workforce – the rising cost of living at a time of great uncertainty and challenge is a thread running through the journal’s pages, for households and for local authorities.

Change takes time and effort, and progress can be piecemeal when consensus is hard to come by. Successes of the past decade such as reducing rough sleeping, introducing Housing First and removing priority need are significant. There are calls now to focus on homelessness prevention, on reducing length of stay in temporary accommodation, and on personalised housing options. Contributors also advocate for change, in both policy and practice, to tackle the marginalisation of people by our current system. Their understanding of the experience of women, refugees, young people, and people using drugs highlight where investment is needed to achieve equality of access and a system that works for everyone.

A final theme to highlight is collaboration – with people with lived experience, between organisations and local authorities, and with government. Partnerships have enabled the changes we’ve seen in the past decade and in response to Covid, but there are calls for an evolution in what that collaboration looks like: being open to change and to take risks for the greater good – not only in delivery, but also in funding and commissioning. This is a call for system change across the sector, embracing alliance and integration as the way forward.

You can download the journal here.

Housing First monitoring report: year one quarter four

This report captures data for Housing First tenancies which started in Scotland from 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022.

Key Points

  • A total of 83 new Housing First tenancies started between 1 January and 31 March 2022. A further 11 tenancies had begun between July and December 2021 which had not been captured in previous reports. This brings the total number of Housing First tenancies which started since 1 April 2021 to 318.
  • There are currently 310 Housing First tenancies: 8 tenancies have ended.
  • 14 tenancies are in the ‘step down’ or ‘stand down’ phase.[1]
  • Within the 310 Housing First tenancies there are 318 adults and 18 children. Additionally, 36 households had access to 53 children but do not have full-time custody.
  • Between 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022, it has taken an average of 181 days for a Housing First participant to move into a permanent tenancy from the referral date.
  • 30% of Housing First participants move into their tenancy within 50 days.
  • 94% of Housing First households are single people.
  • 43% of participants are aged 35-49.
  • 70% of participants are receiving support from the third and independent sector.

Read the report Housing First monitoring report: year one quarter four

Major report on veterans’ homelessness

A detailed new report into veterans’ homelessness in Scotland is recommending that every local authority housing department should have an Armed Forces Lead Officer, social landlords should prioritise ex-Service personnel and more support should be provided for tenancy sustainment in the private rented sector. These are among 24 recommendations in the report published by Veterans’ Scotland Housing Group.

The group was asked by the Scottish Government to produce a report looking in detail at factors leading to or contributing to homelessness among people leaving the forces. The ‘Veterans’ Homelessness Prevention Pathway’ has been produced in partnership by Homeless Network Scotland, Housing Options Military Matters, Scottish Veterans Residences, Veterans Housing Scotland, Veterans Scotland and the report’s author is Dr Steve Rolfe, from University of Stirling. It will feed into the Government’s Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan, which includes Pathways similar to this one for other groups at particular risk.

Approximately 800 homelessness applications annually in Scotland are from households with a member who was previously in the Services. Concerns remain that the true figure could be higher. Veterans affected by homelessness are more likely than non-veterans to experience rough sleeping and other complex issues, with one estimate quoted in the Pathway report attributing service experiences as a cause of homelessness in around 25% of cases. Also highlighted in the report is that homelessness can occur many years after discharge from the Forces because of what is known as ‘delayed transition’ which can be due to a reluctance to seek help or the deferred impact of previous trauma.

The report highlights an additional housing challenge for military households in the degree of mobility they experience. Moving around can make it more difficult to buy a home until nearer the end of a military career, with single people often finding transition particularly difficult if they have lived in Armed Forces accommodation for many years.

Sam was a Combat Medical Technician in Afghanistan before a knee injury and post traumatic stress disorder led to her being medically discharged. Sam could not find settled housing and was struggling to see a positive outcome until getting help from support organisations and the local council last year. Sam now has a home and a pet dog called Kiera – she is training to become a paramedic.

Sam said: “When I was preparing to leave the Army, I found it difficult to navigate the housing system, I had no knowledge of homelessness and in the job, everything is provided. I think people leaving the Forces find it hard to ask for help sometimes, either because of pride or just not knowing where to go. I am grateful to Housing Options Scotland, Veterans Housing Scotland and East Lothian Council. This place is so much more than a new home, it represents a new start and I want to say a big thank you to everyone who helped me along the way.”

Housing Secretary, Shona Robison MSP, said:

“I welcome this report and thank everyone involved for the time spent developing its recommendations. We’re working to end homelessness in Scotland once and for all. We are also continually aware of the great sacrifices that veterans have made – they cannot be allowed to suffer any disadvantage as a result of their service. This report highlights the challenges and where improvements can be made, and we will continue to review the findings as part of our work to ensure everyone in Scotland has a home that meets their needs.”

Kevin Gray, CEO of Veterans Housing Scotland and Chair of the Veterans Scotland Housing Group, said: 

“Working with committed colleagues in the veterans community, charity sector and people with lived experience of homelessness willing to devote time and energy to produce a pathway that will prevent homelessness has been incredible, thank you to all those involved.

“Nobody should have to face homelessness and this report supports the overall aim of reducing and preventing homelessness for veterans in Scotland. It should be looked upon as a credible tool to support people who have served their country, moved on and require a settled home. Our aim must be to provide affordable and appropriate housing that allows military veterans and their families to lead active, dignified and positive lives when their service comes to an end, while remaining connected to support organisations throughout Scotland and networks of people with similar experiences.”

The 24 Recommendations are grouped around seven themes:

  • appropriate timely information
  • complexity of the housing system
  • delayed transition effects – sustaining a tenancy
  • coordination and awareness of veterans’ issues
  • specific policy barriers
  • equalities
  • making sure the Pathway is implemented.

With one day of military service sufficient for someone to be classed as a veteran and diversity within the military increasing, the range of experiences and needs people have moving back into civilian life is recognised. Considering disability, equality, age, ethnicity and other characteristics a one-size-fits-all approach is no longer an option. The team preparing the report spoke to veterans, people with experience of homelessness and professionals providing support. The finished document adds to existing evidence as well as contributing fresh perspective on what is needed to ensure everyone leaving the Services receives the type of support they need as quickly as possible.