I’m working but homeless and bottom of the housing list

  • By Chris Clements
  • Social affairs correspondent, BBC Scotland

Image caption,

Daniel Thomson has been registered homeless since last year

Daniel Thomson is homeless and has been “sofa surfing” for four months.

He works 50 hours a week in a chip shop but can’t find an affordable place to stay in his home city of Glasgow.

His only option for now, according to local housing groups, is a spell in one of the city’s homeless hostels.

The 37-year-old is one of a growing number of people in Scotland described as suffering “core homelessness” – living in hostels, rough sleeping or staying with friends.

Daniel – a father-of-one – was made homeless after a relationship breakdown last year.

He told BBC Scotland News he spends his days wondering where he will spend the night – either with friends or with his ex-partner.

“There is not a limit when you’re desperate but it’s embarrassing to ask to stay at someone’s house for a night or two,” he said.

“It’s not good for your mental health either.”

‘Bottom of the list’

Daniel cannot afford to save for a deposit on a privately rented flat, so his only chance of finding a place of his own is through his local authority.

Last year, he received a Schedule 5 referral from his council – where the authority instructs social landlords to find him accommodation.

But after approaching five local housing associations, he still hasn’t been offered temporary accommodation.

Despite tests for “priority need” being abolished in 2012, he claims he was told his circumstances would have to change before he was likely to find a home.

Daniel said: “The housing told me that because I don’t have any disabilities, because I am working and because I don’t have a drug habit, they can’t help me.

“They said I’d be at the bottom of a list and that I’d stay there for a long, long time.”

Image source, Glasgow Herald and Evening Times

Image caption,

Daniel (pictured,right, with a colleague) works at the Blue Lagoon chip shop in Glasgow

He continued: “The homeless team told me that they could put me into homeless accommodation for £100 a night, which obviously no-one can afford.

“They said I could build up a debt. I was thinking it was maybe going to be for a couple of days but they said, no, it could be for up to a year.

“How is anybody supposed to mentally go forward paying £100 a night, racking up a future debt, just to get a home with a housing association?”

Homeless deaths

Daniel was told there was available space in one of Glasgow city centre’s bed-and-breakfasts.

Crisis said the use of homeless B&Bs in Scotland has risen by 124% since the Covid pandemic.

Meanwhile, campaigners raised concerns about the number of drug deaths in the city’s hostels.

Daniel told BBC Scotland News that his own brother Gary died in homeless accommodation last July.

Image source, Family handout

Image caption,

Daniel’s brother Gary Thomson passed away in a homeless hostel last year.

“It is not a place I want to go,” he said.

“Plus the stories I have heard as well – there are a lot of drugs and drug dealing in those types of places and I don’t want to be around that.

“I also wouldn’t get to see my daughter if I was in a hostel.”

He continued: “There is no priority for anybody that works. I was even told that I’ll be at the bottom of that list and I’ll stay there until my circumstances change.

“It upsets me to know that I am paying all that money to the government in taxes and here I am, walking the streets on my day off.

“I could be at home or warm in my bed but here I am, walking the streets and freezing.”

Increased rough sleeping

The UK-wide study analyses homelessness trends across the country as well as the impact of housing policy.

In England, it found rough sleeping had increased 132% since 2010.

In Scotland, it suggested “core homelessness” happens at a lower rate but has risen 11% since 2020.

It is expected to rise by a further 33% due to a shortage in social housing, increasing private rent costs and cost of living pressures.

Meanwhile, the number of children in temporary accommodation has reached record levels in Scotland., while half of Scottish councils reported “significant increases” in footfall to homelessness services.

Image caption,

Glasgow City Council announced it would ‘decommission’ some of its homeless bed-and-breakfasts last year.

Dr Beth Watts-Cobbe, of Heriot-Watt University, said the rises were “concerning”.

She continued: “But while many of the trends revealed in the Monitor are worrying, the report also shows that projected rises in core homelessness can be prevented through a comprehensive response from policy-makers.

“Homelessness has been a major area of policy focus for the Scottish government since 2017 and with the right commitment Scotland can reverse these trends and reduce homelessness.”

The charity urged the Scottish government to allow people to “get help up to six months before they are at risk of homelessness, while also introducing new legal duties requiring public services to play a greater role in preventing homelessness”.

Housing Bill

The recommendations are expected to be included in the Scottish government’s forthcoming Housing Bill, which is supported by Crisis and other charities.

Housing Minister Paul McLennan said the government had “already committed to many of these measures in our homelessness strategy”.

He added: “We are committed to reducing the number of households in temporary accommodation and we are acting on the recommendations of the expert temporary accommodation task and finish group.

“This includes investing at least £60m in 2023-24 as part of our £752m Affordable Housing Supply Programme to support a national acquisition plan.

Image source, Getty Images

“However, as the report notes, other changes which would make a significant difference are not within the powers of the Scottish government.

“The UK government should heed the calls from Crisis to increase Housing Benefit and other working age benefits. It is also concerning that another Local Housing Allowance freeze is on the horizon.”

A UK government spokesperson said it was spending £2bn on tackling rough sleeping in England.

She added: “Our Single Homelessness Accommodation Programme is delivering up to 2,400 homes for rough sleepers by March 2025, and through our Rough Sleeping Strategy, we will continue to work to end rough sleeping completely.”

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