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Depressed, isolated and hungry – that’s the impact living in B&Bs can have on homeless people in Scotland according to new research from Crisis

Beth Reid, Senior Policy Officer, Policy and Campaigns, Scotland

Most people in Scotland become homeless following a relationship breakdown. Many are then placed in temporary accommodation, such as furnished flats, as part of their journey towards a settled home.  However, in some areas homeless people are regularly housed in unsuitable emergency accommodation for prolonged periods.   

Using emergency accommodation, such as B&Bs or hotels, as long-term housing for homeless people is not an effective housing solution. For our latest research, I won’t last long in here – experiences of unsuitable temporary accommodation in Scotland’, we spoke to 74 people who’d been housed in this way. Many of them told us they were often prevented from accessing basic living facilities such as a cooker or washing machine.    

But the consequences go much further than struggling to cook and clean. The people we spoke to also told us the impact living in this way has had on their lives. Including: 

  • 60% of people were subject to a curfew  
  • 3 in 4 said they were not allowed visits from family or friends  
  • Pets were prohibited for 84% of respondents  

These restrictions on everyday life have a devastating impact on people’s state of mind: 

  • 84% of respondents said they sometimes or often felt isolated because of their living situation  
  • 6 out of 10 people said living in unsuitable temporary accommodation had a     negative impact on their drug or alcohol use  
  • 88% of respondents reported experiencing depression  

Unsurprisingly, 9 out of 10 people surveyed said they felt their future was uncertain.  

We can do better! The law in Scotland must be changed this parliamentary year so that no one has to live in unsuitable temporary accommodation for more than seven days. 

Scotland has some of the strongest homelessness rights in the world. In 2003, the Scottish Government introduced ground-breaking legislation that ended prioritisation of homeless people so that everyone who approached their council was entitled to support.    

Since 2004, homeless families have had a legal time limit of one week in unsuitable housing before they are moved on, yet single homeless people can still be housed there indefinitely.  Crisis’ A Life in Limbo campaign seeks to extend this to all homeless households, so that no one has to live in unsuitable conditions.   

Earlier this year, the Scottish Government accepted in principle that this needs to change as part of the recommendations of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) chaired by Crisis Chief Executive, Jon Sparkes. It was also supported by the Local Government and Communities Committee at the Scottish Parliament in their inquiry into homelessness this year. 

Since our first report a year ago, things are getting worse. Scottish Government statistics show: 

  • 9% increase (2017/18) in the number of people ‘living’ in unsuitable temporary accommodation than the previous year.  
  • Fewer people are leaving this type of accommodation: last year 4,730 households entered B&B but only 2,510 left. 

Scottish councils are currently preparing rapid re-housing transition plans as instructed by the Scottish Government as they begin to implement the recommendations of the HARSAG. This should reduce the reliance on B&Bs and other emergency accommodation but there must be a legislative backstop to stop this situation ever happening again.  

The law must be changed in this parliamentary year so that no one has to live in unsuitable temporary accommodation for more than seven days. 

There are alternatives that would improve people’s situations and also save councils money. Research commissioned by Crisis, earlier this year, showed that councils could save £29 million this year alone by immediately moving people into more appropriate forms of temporary accommodation, such as supported lodgings. Other options include permanent accommodation in the private rented sector through rent deposit or sharing schemes. Of course, if homelessness was prevented in the first place there’d be no need for this type of accommodation.  

Crisis is calling for a small change in the Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order in this parliamentary calendar (2018-19) so all homeless people are moved on from this type of accommodation after seven days. We also want to see councils develop plans on how they will reduce the use of emergency accommodation and provide support to people while they are there to help them move on.   

You can help us achieve this, join our campaign to call for the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Planning, Kevin Stewart, to make the legal change a reality.  

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