Scottish Government urged to accelerate social rented home building plans

Scottish Parliament
(Left to right) Grant Campbell, Christina McKelvie, Biddy Kelly, Dr Barr and Iain Gordon.

A charity boss has urged the Scottish Government and local authorities to accelerate plans to build new social rented homes.

Iain Gordon, chief executive of Bethany Christian Trust, said tens of thousands of properties were needed now, not over the course of 10 years, to reduce homelessness.

He challenged congregations and other groups to increase the amount of love and compassion they show to people to help them combat problems that lead to sleeping rough.

Mr Gordon made the remarks at a reception at the Scottish Parliament last night for the Moderator of the General Assembly, Right Rev Dr Russell Barr.

It was hosted by Christina McKelvie MSP, convener of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee, which is currently conducting an enquiry into destitution and human rights.

Dr Barr is spending his time as Moderator highlighting the scourge of homelessness and bringing it to the attention of decision makers.

The Scottish Government has promised to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes by 2021 backed by over £3 billion.

Mr Gordon said: “Rough sleeping is a real tragedy and the most extreme form of homelessness.

“It is usually the last resort for people.

“It is dangerous, traumatising and sleeping rough for more than 72 hours will have a permanent negative impact on your mental health.”

Iain Gordon
Iain Gordon

Mr Gordon said the average life expectancy for a rough sleeper is 47.

“Many people suffer from mental and physical health issues and often addiction problems – it is a real blight on our society,” he added.

“At the moment in Scotland we have a lack of affordable, rented social accommodation so people cannot get out of the pipeline and into a stable community.

“We need more houses and we need them sooner.

“We don’t need tens of thousands over 10 years, we need multiples of tens of thousands now.”

Speaking directly to politicians, Mr Gordon said: “Please accelerate the house building programme.

“There is a direct and causal link between the lack of affordable social rented housing and the number of people forced to sleep rough.”

Mr Gordon said churches and charities were well placed to support people who do not have a permanent roof over their heads.

“We can put our faith into action and demonstrate our values of love and mercy, grace and compassion,” he added.

“Love trumps policy, love is what will make the difference and we are not showing it enough to each other.”

Mr Gordon said lives would be changed and communities transformed if the public and charity sector worked better together.

In 1999, Dr Barr established a charity called Fresh Start in Edinburgh which helps people who have been homeless turn a new tenancy into a home of their own.

Grant Campbell, chief executive of Glasgow City Mission, also addressed the reception.

He said different agencies involved in tackling homeless were “too often” in the business of merely managing the problem.

Mr Campbell said: “My concern is sometimes when we just manage people in this way, we damage them because we are not providing stability for them.

“Too often I find that because we label people as homeless, we are defining them by that instead of realising they are individuals who have got troubles just like the rest of us.

“It is not just about housing, it is about recovery and providing access to the support they need if they choose it.

“How do we help people retain a tenancy once they have got one?

“How do we make sure people are not isolated, recognising that relationship breakdown is one the key factors behind homelessness?”

Biddy Kelly, deputy managing director of Fresh Start, led a presentation on the extensive work being carried out in Edinburgh to provide people with a home they can proudly call their own.

Around 80 people attended the reception at Holyrood.

Book now for the Starter Packs Networking Event 2017, organised by Scottish Churches Housing Action and CRNS (Community Resources Network Scotland).

The free event will take place at Stirling Baptist Church on Wednesday 15 March from 10.00 am to 3.00 pm.

homelessness guests
L-R Scottish Churches Housing Action chief executive, Alastair Cameron, Green MSP Ross Greer, SNP MSP Christina McKelvie, SCHA convener , Rev Graeme Wilson, and Dr Russell Barr.