Thousands of Scots could become “trapped” between homelessness and “unsuitable” bed and breakfast accommodation, charity campaigners have warned.
The Salvation Army spoke out as a survey of local councils it carried out revealed a £34m “black hole” in their homeless budgets.
That comes at the same time as 60% of the local authorities it surveyed said they were seeing an increase in demand for help with housing and homelessness in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Salvation Army Homelessness in Scotland report found that as a result, councils were being forced to spend cash on temporary accommodation – leaving them with less money to invest in long-term housing.
One council said it was using bed and breakfast accommodation for the first time in years, the report revealed.
The Salvation Army surveyed two-thirds of Scotland’s 32 councils for the report – which also claimed that while the Scottish Government allocated approximately £87m for homeless services in 2020-21, local authorities spend approximately £120m on this area.
It now wants the Scottish Government to increase spending on homelessness, saying there should be an “immediate investment to match the scale of the crisis Scotland is facing”.
It is also demanding a specific capital investment programme be set up to increase housing for homeless people – insisting this is needed to help provide permanent housing for those currently living in temporary accommodation.
Malcolm Page, assistant director of homelessness services for The Salvation Army, said: “Living in temporary accommodation like a B&B can start to eat away at your physical and mental health. Spending long periods without anywhere to cook, wash or properly relax makes it very difficult to hold a job down, keep in good physical health and start rebuilding your life.
“These are places that are meant to be a short-term fix to prevent people from sleeping on the streets, not as long-term solutions.
“Bed and breakfast-type accommodation is often provided without the essential support we believe is required to address the deep-rooted and often complex issues that result in people becoming homeless.”
Mr Page welcomed the work the Scottish Government had already done to tackle the problem through its Ending Homelessness Together high-level action plan.
But he said: “We are not only making a moral argument, we are also making a dire financial prediction.
“Unless local authorities are able to invest in ‘move on’ accommodation through their rapid rehousing transition plans, there is just nowhere for people to go and the temporary accommodation bill will significantly increase.
“Through our frontline work, we are seeing the effects of the pandemic on people who are homeless or at risk of losing their homes, coming to our food banks and drop-ins.
“Without significant further funding in specialist housing-led provision and support services, we are concerned thousands more will become trapped in a cycle of homelessness and unsuitable accommodation.”
Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “Since March, the Scottish Government’s priority has been to keep people safe from coronavirus. Extending the temporary exceptions has ensured that no-one has been left behind.
“Temporary accommodation can offer an important emergency safety net for anyone who finds themselves homeless, but it should be a purely temporary measure. That is why we are investing over £30m to support councils prioritise settled accommodation for all.
“Scotland has led the way in the delivery of social and affordable housing across the UK with almost 97,000 affordable homes since 2007, nearly 67,000 of which were for social rent.
“We are committed to continuing to support the delivery of more social and affordable homes by investing £3.5bn in housing over the next five years to deliver more social and affordable homes.”