THE number of homeless applications in this region fell by more than 50 per cent in 12 months, a Scottish Government report has revealed.
A total of 216 were made to Scottish Borders Council from April to September last year, compared with 477 in the same period of 2010.
The Borders had the biggest percentage decrease alongside Aberdeen City, with the Scottish Government saying it is likely the reduction in 28 of the 32 local authority areas in the country during the past year is due to changes in the way services are provided for troubled households.
Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame praised SBC for its role in reducing homeless numbers in the region.
She said: “I believe these statistics in the Borders can be put down to good partnership between central and local government, and the hard work and dedication of council staff in developing services to help Scotland’s homeless should be praised.
“It is vital we continue in this partnership working to put an end to this problem that has such devastating effect of people’s lives.”
While congratulating SBC and other Scottish councils, Shelter Scotland director Graeme Brown warned there was still work to be done.
“This success should not blind us to the scale of Scotland’s ongoing housing crisis,” said Mr Brown. “Nearly 50,000 people still presented as homeless in the last 12 months, so this progress needs to be a catalyst for even greater change.
“As evidenced in the Christie Report, local authorities should now focus on preventing homelessness, while the Scottish Government should not delay implementation of the crucial housing support provisions passed by the Scottish Parliament last year.
“Only then will we see even greater progress to reduce homelessness and repeat homelessness.”
Homelessness was discussed as part of SBC’s local housing strategy for 2012 to 2017, which councillors backed at Tuesday’s executive meeting. It said applications rose by 70 per cent in the region between 1999 and 2008, with the largest increase coming from single people and teenagers aged 16 and 17.
SBC’s report highlighted disputes in the household – whether violent or non-violent – accounting for a third of all people leaving their homes in the Borders.
The council said the introduction of a new homelessness strategy in February 2010 has steadily helped reduce applications.
And its plans to improve the service further during the next five years include reviewing its new homelessness prevention team, strengthening its partnership with NHS Borders and developing a befriending scheme for vulnerable homeless households.