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Moderator Demands New Homelessness Strategy

Friday October 7

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland described homelessness as ‘Scotland’s shame’ when he addressed the autumn event of Scottish Churches Housing Action in Edinburgh this morning.

At the seminar, the Rt Rev Dr Russell Barr set out his call for central government to work with local government and voluntary bodies to ensure that Scotland tackles its long-standing homelessness problems.

Dr Barr said:
“It is to Scotland’s shame that so many people continue to be assessed as homeless – some 28,000 households including almost 18,000 children and young people.

“Despite all our best efforts these stark figures are the same as they were 20 years ago and represent a continuing story of human misery throughout Scotland.

“As Moderator I have pledged to take every opportunity to raise the issue of homelessness during my year of office and I am looking forward to engaging with the Minister and others because the situation cannot be allowed to continue as it is and a fresh approach is required.”

The Moderator called for the formation of a ‘collective endeavour’ partnership of local authorities, political parties, housing associations and the charity sector, to tackle the problem.

He said this model had proved successful in Finland, the only western European country to significantly reduce the number of homeless people in recent years.

the Finnish distinctive ‘housing first’ model has demonstrated it is always more cost-effective to end homelessness rather than manage it.

“This nationally agreed policy made it possible to establish a wide partnership of state authorities, local communities and non-governmental organisations.

“And because there were co-ordinated and targeted measures in the implementation of the policy, it is working.

“Collective endeavour – as expressed in a nationally agreed strategy appropriate for the Scottish context - could not be more urgent.

“A strategy which commands cross party and cross discipline support and a strategy which embraces local authorities, housing associations and the third sector including the various charities involved in supporting people who have been homeless.”

Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Local Government and Housing was unable to address the seminar, for personal reasons. Speaking on his behalf, civil servant Bill Barron set out the measures the Scottish Government is taking.

Before the event, Mr Stewart said:
 “I welcome this event which is an important opportunity for churches, charities and the sector to come together to discuss how we can tackle homelessness in Scotland.  I look forward to working with Dr Barr and hearing his views on homelessness during his tenure as Moderator.

“Everyone should be able to have access to a safe and warm place that they can call home. And while we provide funding to local authorities and have some of the strongest housing rights for homeless people in the world in place, preventing homelessness will continue to be a priority for the Scottish Government and this includes supporting those with the most complex needs.”

The event was held in the offices of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh, and was chaired by the Convener of Scottish Churches Housing Action, the Rev Graeme Wilson.


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