Shelter Scotland: we're still fighting, 50 years later

It is 50 years since Shelter Scotland was formed to help deal with the unique challenges of homelessness and bad housing in Scotland.

Saturday, 21st April 2018, 6:00 pm
Call to action...rather than celebrating its 50th birthday, Shelter Scotland is planning a 12-month series of events and promotional activities under the banner We're Still Fighting.

And it’s 76 years since Sir William Beveridge’s Report first aimed to tackle housing conditions in pre-war Britain.

Sadly, neither the charity nor the report managed to eradicate the squalor and poverty which is still as prevalent today as it was all those years ago.

Which is why Shelter, despite many successes in the last half century, is not looking on its milestone birthday as a cause for celebration – but rather a 
call to action.

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Rolling up his sleeves...Shelter Scotland director Graeme Brown knows there's much more work to be done to ensure everyone in Scotland has a place to call home.

The charity is planning a year-long series of events and promotional activities from now until next March, under the banner We’re Still Fighting.

Graeme Brown, Shelter Scotland director, said: “While good progress has been made, unfortunately, homelessness and bad housing still blights the lives of many thousands of people in Scotland – robbing them of their health, security and a fair chance in life.

“That’s why we are not celebrating our 50th; we shouldn’t really exist and there’s still so much more that needs to be done.

“From people sleeping rough and dying on our streets to the 6581 children without a home and from the 28,247 homelessness applications last year to the 46 per cent of calls to our free national helpline coming from the private rented sector, bad housing and homelessness in Scotland is still far from fixed.

Rolling up his sleeves...Shelter Scotland director Graeme Brown knows there's much more work to be done to ensure everyone in Scotland has a place to call home.

“In our 50th year, through a series of events and activities, we aim to re-engage people across Scotland with our core messages and motivate them to join our fight to campaign until there’s a home for everyone.”

The charity has two main missions – to solve the problems people face today and try to find solutions for the problems they may face tomorrow.

There can be little doubt those aims have, in part, been met in the last 50 years.

In 1977, the charity’s campaigning helped to get the Homeless People Act implemented, which placed duties on councils to assist homeless families.

Shelter launched the Rural Housing Initiative in 1985 which targeted homes that were lying empty. The initiative helped set up a new breed of community-based rural housing associations.

Two years later, it launched eight care and repair projects in Scotland that helped older people who needed house adaptions to stay at home.

In 1998, the charity’s national helpline opened, answering 40,000 calls in its first year.

At Shelter Scotland’s recommendation, the Government set up the Homelessness Task Force.

By 2002, it had set out the most ambitious programme of action on homelessness ever seen. A year later, after the introduction of the Homelessness (Scotland) Act 2003, the Government limited the use of B&Bs for families waiting for a permanent home.

In 2011, after years of campaigning, the Tenancy Deposit Scheme came into force which, to this day, ensures 11 million tenants’ deposits are protected.

When the bedroom tax was introduded in 2013, Shelter Scotland successfully campaigned for the government to protect the most vunerable from the changes.

And 2016 proved one of the charity’s most successful – the Scottish Government removed the Right to Buy and committed to build 50,000 new affordable homes by 2021 – both campaigns being led by Shelter Scotland.

It’s an impressive track record but Graeme stressed that the charity’s work is far from finished.

He explained: “Every 18 minutes, someone becomes homeless in Scotland.

“There are 10,500 households in temporary accommodation, living in limbo for months on end.

“And there’s a massive backlog, some 160,000 people, sitting on council house waiting lists.

“Right to Buy saw almost half a million homes taken out of the public housing stock in Scotland.

“So while we have had successes, there are still fundamental problems with our housing system – there’s still work to be done.

“People have lost the plot a wee bit; they’re obsessed with house prices and making a fast buck and are in real danger of missing the bigger picture. We want to remind them of that.”

And pictures will be used to do just that, thanks to a unique initiative with the Glasgow School of Art.

From 1969 to 1972, Nick Hedges was employed by Shelter to document abject living conditions in poor quality housing in the UK.

Now, Glasgow School of Art students have been tasked to do likewise.

Graeme added: “We asked the students to do their own take on housing and homelessness today.

“These pictures will be shown in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen later this year to serve as a reminder to people that we have not solved the national housing crisis.”

For more details, visit or, if you need urgent housing advice, call Shelter Scotland’s helpline on 0808 800 4444 from 9am to 5pm on week days. Calls are free from landlines and main mobile networks.