We can’t al­low a new wave of city home­less

Evening Times - - NEWS -

SHOPS are al­ready open, shop­ping cen­tres can open next week and be­fore long of­fices will start to be oc­cu­pied again. When the city cen­tre streets start to re­turn to the busy thor­ough­fares they have al­ways been there should be some­thing miss­ing.

This time these streets should not be home to peo­ple with nowhere else to go at night.

The Scot­tish Govern­ment is pro­vid­ing fund­ing to keep peo­ple in emer­gency ac­com­mo­da­tion un­til they have been found suit­able homes. It has said it will not with­draw the sup­port un­til homes have been found.

It may mean these men and women will be moved out of ho­tels and into some other ac­com­mo­da­tion un­til they are found a home, but the streets should never be their des­ti­na­tion again.

It may be the best op­por­tu­nity we have ever had in this city to end street home­less­ness.

How­ever, it should not be as­sumed that by pro­vid­ing the peo­ple with a home the prob­lem will be solved.

The prob­lems, and they are myr­iad, that led to peo­ple liv­ing on the streets have not gone away.

In fact, if any­thing they have been am­pli­fied by the same cri­sis that cre­ated empty ho­tel rooms to ac­com­mo­date the rough sleep­ers.

Los­ing a job, debt, re­la­tion­ship break-up, fam­ily break­down, al­co­hol, drug and gam­bling ad­dic­tions, phys­i­cal, sex­ual and psy­cho­log­i­cal abuse and men­tal ill health are all boxes that could be ticked by those who spent nights at the win­ter shel­ter and in door­ways and lanes.

The peo­ple who hap­pened to be those on the streets in March, when Scot­land was locked down, were not the first to find them­selves in that po­si­tion.

So, purely by putting them into homes it is bla­tantly ob­vi­ous that they will not be the last to suf­fer trauma and the mul­ti­ple so­cial prob­lems that lead to home­less­ness and which ex­ac­er­bate it.

De­spite govern­ment in­ter­ven­tions the eco­nomic cri­sis that has oc­curred as a con­se­quence of the mea­sures needed to stop the spread of coro­n­avirus is al­ready show­ing its teeth.

More peo­ple un­em­ployed, more peo­ple un­able to pay bills, more peo­ple wor­ried about mort­gage or rent pay­ments. More peo­ple pushed onto a wel­fare sys­tem that was not fit for pur­pose be­fore this cri­sis. A wel­fare sys­tem that makes life worse for many of the peo­ple it should be sup­port­ing and pro­tect­ing.

A sys­tem, which at its core is the Uni­ver­sal Credit ben­e­fit, where new claimants are faced with an im­pos­si­ble choice of a five week wait for a first pay­ment and the like­li­hood of re­ly­ing on a food­bank as well as the threat of a missed bill and hous­ing pay­ments, or they take an ad­vance pay­ment which is then clawed back from the monthly pay­ments leav­ing them short ev­ery month.

To­gether with the threat of sanc­tions, where money is docked or stopped if it is deemed the claimant com­mit­ment to spend 35 hours a week and meet ap­point­ments is not be­ing met.

A sanc­tions regime which Job­cen­tre staff have said does not work.

There is also the dan­ger that as the econ­omy con­tracts fur­ther and the debt the govern­ment has

rapidly stacked up to stave off an im­me­di­ate shock, will lead to years more pub­lic spend­ing cuts fall­ing on the very ser­vices needed to pre­vent peo­ple spi­ral­ing into the prob­lems listed above.

There will be many com­pet­ing pri­or­i­ties de­mand­ing cash and govern­ment sup­port in the months and years to come.

How­ever, if we are to take this op­por­tu­nity to take hun­dreds out of home­less­ness in Glas­gow, and in other cities across the coun­try, we need to have poli­cies in place and ser­vices pro­tected that stop them be­ing re­placed many times over as a re­sult of the cri­sis caused by coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

The con­veyor belt must be switched off.

LOCK­DOWN CHANGES ARE BIG

IN her own words Ni­clola Stur­geon said the move to phase three was the “most sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone” in ex­it­ing lock­down so far.

The changes are big, al­low­ing more peo­ple to met up in­doors at home and open­ing pubs and restau­rants is a long way from not be­ing able to met with any­one from an­other house­hold.

She is right when she says “we mess with it at our peril”.

We have seen what it has done al­ready and will gain given half the chance.

There are an es­ti­mated 1000 peo­ple in­fected with coro­n­avirus in Scot­land just now.

It is de­clin­ing be­cause it is not be­ing given the same op­por­tu­ni­ties to in­crease as it had pre lock­down.

We all re­mem­ber how quickly we moved from no case to just a hand­ful re­ported, to thou­sands, then tens of thou­sands as the death toll jumped day af­ter day, dev­as­tat­ing thou­sands of fam­i­lies in the process.

These 1000 es­ti­mated cases could rapidly be­come tens of thou­sands again if we don’t con­tinue with the pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures as we get some sem­blance of nor­mal­ity back in out lives.

We need to do all we can to en­sure that we do not go back to where we were in March.

We all re­mem­ber how quickly the virus moved from no case to just a hand­ful re­ported, to tens of thou­sands

We need to find a plan to end rough sleep­ing in Glas­gow

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