Council to discuss report on homelessness

Scottish Borders Council will discuss homelessness in the region on Thursday, ahead of implementing a new strategy.
Scottish Borders Council will discuss homelessness in the region on Thursday, ahead of implementing a new strategy.

Scottish Borders Council is set to implement a new homelessness strategy, taking advantage of a new national scheme for tackling the issue.

The Scottish government has created a £50m fund, spread out over five years, in order to alleviate homelessness across the nation.

Alongside this fund, the government has also announced an action plan called ‘ending homelessness together’, a core principle of which is to rehome homeless people as quickly as possible.

The council is now being asked to approve implementing ‘rapid rehousing’ whenever individuals cannot avoid homelessness in the region.

A report, authored by David Kemp, the council’s homelesness and financial support manager, is set to go before the full council on Thursday, March 28, and outlines the principles of rapid rehousing.

It reads: “Where homelessness cannot be prevented, rapid rehousing means a settled, mainstream housing outcome as quickly as possible, and that time spent in any form of temporary accommodation is reduced to a minimum.

“When temporary accommodation is needed, the optimum type is mainstream, furnished and integrated within a community.

“A rapid rehousing approach sees a shift away from a culture of ‘tenancy readiness’. The majority of households experiencing homelessness have no, or low support needs.

“Some households may have higher support requirements, and for them rapid rehousing means supporting people in their own settled home rather than in temporary or supported accommodation for prolonged periods of time.”

Since 2013/14, the number of homelessness applications in the Borders has remained largely stable, at around 650 applications per year, with 673 applications being received in 2017/18.

This represents around 1% of the approximately 52,000 households in the region.

The report highlights some of the issues found in the Borders: “The relative stability of the number of homelessness applications in the Borders is set against a very challenging local landscape in terms of housing affordability, welfare reform and economic fragility.

“While rough sleeping in the Borders is not necessarily as visible as it is in the cities, of the 673 homeless applications made in 2017/2018, 30 applicants advised that they had slept rough at least once during the last three months and 10 had slept rough the night before.”

The change will be gradual, however, and the report sets out a five-year timescale for implementing the rapid rehousing scheme, which will include hiring a full-time development officer, starting later this year.

So far, the Scottish government has so far awarded the Borders £35,000 to help transition towards rapid rehousing, but has not confirmed how much more will be available to the council in the future.