Former Moderator appointed to action on homelessness task group

A former Moderator who used the role to demand action to end homelessness has been appointed to a Scottish Government task group.

Very Rev Dr Russell Barr will draw on nearly 20 years of experience leading the Edinburgh charity, Fresh Start, which helps people get back onto their feet, to advise a range of organisations on what needs to be done to tackle the issue.

Russell Barr
Very Rev Dr Russell Barr says homelessness is a stain on society.

Work to address the challenges of rough sleeping and how temporary accommodation can best be utilised is now underway.

One of the first tasks of the short-term Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group is to come up with urgent recommendations to minimise rough sleeping this winter.

The group, which draws on expertise from across the sector, will examine how the government’s commitment to end rough sleeping can be achieved and how best a new £50 million fund can support this.

Blight

Dr Barr, minister of Cramond Kirk in Edinburgh, said: “During my year as Moderator of the General Assembly 2016-17, I used every opportunity to raise the issue of homelessness, including the increase in the number of people sleeping rough.

“Over the last number of years, the time people are spending in temporary accommodation has been increasing and in 2016 it averaged 23 weeks.

“The number of people being registered as homeless is about the same as it was twenty-five years ago.

"This includes 5,700 pre-school and primary aged children in temporary housing.

“At best we are managing the situation.

“I am hoping that the new working group will renew our commitment to resolving the blight of homelessness in Scotland.”

Homelessnesstask

The Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group. The Scottish Government.

Scotland’s Housing Minster Kevin Stewart said the group members bring a wide range of expertise, experience and enthusiasm to the table and will provide “invaluable” advice.

“The group will be engaging with all partners who deal with homelessness, including in local authorties and the third sector, so we can harness;the wealth of knowledge available,” he added.

“We are committeed to ending rough sleeping, preventing homelessness, and transforming outcomes for those who experience it.

“The action group and the new £50 million fund are important steps in achieving this.”

Thing of the past

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis and chairman of the new action group, said he was delighted to be working with such a “dedicated and knowledgeable” set of people.

“The Scottish Government has set us an ambitious goal but I am confident that with the invaluable experience of this group, combined with the views of people who have experience of homelessness, we can and will make all forms of homelessness a thing of the past,” he added.