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Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group: tackling homelessness following coronavirus

Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group report on tackling homelessness in Scotland following the coronavirus pandemic.


The coronavirus pandemic has had and continues to have a profound impact on all our lives. However, people facing homelessness, particularly those who were sleeping rough or staying in shelters or hostels with shared facilities, are hit uniquely hard by this crisis. They found themselves in an impossible situation – unable to protect their own health by selfisolating able and worried about how to get access to the basic resources they are dependent on to survive.

As an initial response to the pandemic, the Scottish Government, local authorities and charities moved quickly to get people off the streets and into safe accommodation to protect people’s health. The response was impressive, meaning that virtually all people sleeping rough or staying in congregate shelters were supported into self-contained accommodation during the immediate crisis.

Another concern was that the coronavirus could lead to more people being at risk of losing their homes. To tackle this, the Scottish Government created stronger protections for most renters during lockdown to help prevent evictions from taking place until the end of September. In addition, the Scottish Government also decided to move the ban on using unsuitable accommodation for people who were homeless to much earlier, from April 2021 to October 2020. This sent out a strong signal that temporary accommodation, such as B&Bs and hotels, are not to be seen as a replacement for a safe and stable home.

Before the coronavirus crisis, work was already underway to tackle homelessness through the national action plan published by Scottish Government and COSLA called Ending Homelessness Together. In many ways, the coronavirus crisis has reenergised the move to end homelessness in Scotland. The pandemic fundamentally changed many aspects of our society and has created new challenges. Relationships have been placed under pressure during lockdown, domestic abuse has increased, and the full impact on the economy is yet to be realised. All these factors will mean more households will be at risk of homelessness. Due to these changes, the national plan to end homelessness needs to be looked at again.

That is why in June 2020 the Housing Minister Kevin Stewart asked the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, or HARSAG as it has become known, to reconvene and look at what can be done to tackle homelessness right now and into the future, including changes to the Ending Homelessness Together plan.  

HARSAG final report on homelessness after coronavirus 30 page PDF, 1.3 MB


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