The use of B&Bs and other private businesses as temporary accommodation for homeless people is ‘not sustainable’ according to leading charities.
The Invisibles, an organisation based in Glasgow, call the approach of local authorities towards temporary accommodation a ‘disaster waiting to happen’ as money is spent on short-term solutions such as hotels and B&Bs as opposed to investment in public housing.
Large local authorities in Glasgow and Edinburgh spend approximately £2.5m per year on emergency, temporary accommodation.
Robert Ryan, an organiser of The Invisibles, said: “There is going to come a point, sooner rather than later, when putting people up in B&Bs will come back to haunt them [the council]. It’s not a long term solution; it’s simply wasting money in the short term and worrying about the problem later. We need more council homes built.”
In 2015-16 local authorities paid an estimated £3.8m days of temporary accommodation for homeless people, of which around £1m were households with children.
Temporary accommodation is used to provide extra time for councils to organise a homeless person’s application.
However, while the temporary accommodation is intended to be for a short period of time, statistics obtained by Shelter in February 2017 show that the average time spent in temporary housing is currently 24 weeks. This has risen from 18 weeks in 2014 and an estimated 32% of applicants remain in temporary accommodation for 6 months.
Glasgow City Council is increasingly turning towards the use of B&Bs and local authorities in Edinburgh and The Highlands are already using private businesses as their main provider of short-term housing solutions.
Campaign groups say that local authorities should invest in securing council-owned property to house homeless people, meaning less money landing in the hands of private businesses.
“Take Inverness,” says Harry Samh, an organiser of Yes 2 No More Homeless a campaign which provides sleeping and sanitary supplies to people living on the streets, “they went a step further than any other council and invested one and a half million pounds into council housing which in turn significantly reduced homelessness.
“They actually have a surplus of accommodation now and this could easily be replicated in bigger cities like Glasgow.”
Mr Samh added that increasing public apathy towards homelessness was allowing the problem to go unchecked.
He said: “the stereotype of a homeless person doesn’t really apply anymore. It’s happening to mothers with young children and people who had jobs a year ago but can no longer pay rent. We’ve had to start collections for female sanitary products which there wasn’t the same demand for in the past.
“There are so many people that need the help but the services aren’t there so the councils are cramming people into temporary accommodation making them tomorrow’s problem.”
According to Shelter’s Susie Rose, council’s are increasingly turning towards B&B accommodation because the council-owned accommodation which is available is not fit for purpose.
She said: “We are concerned that in some areas of Scotland there is insufficient temporary accommodation that is suitable for the people who need it and that sometimes the quality of it is poor.
“At the same time temporary accommodation can be expensive and provide poor value for money. We believe minimum quality standards should be set so that the support available for people who lose their homes is a positive stepping-stone away from homelessness.
Martha Wardop, councillor for Hillhead, admitted that the rise in use of B&Bs is problematic but acknowledged that the problem would not be solved until there is more investment in affordable rental homes.
She said: “I am seeking to improve outcomes for homeless people locally by ensuring people get a more affordable place as their home. We need new social rented homes to be built each year, to meet population growth in Glasgow. Renting should be a positive option.”
When asked about the verdict delivered by homeless charities, Ms Wardop added: “The council is seeking to implement an improvement plan to try to deliver its statutory duty to homeless households in 2017. This requires the council to work in partnership with charities and the wider public to build and sustain good relationships in our communities.”