We can’t allow a new wave of city homeless
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