Homeless shelters to be replaced with 'welcome centres'

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Winter night shelterImage source, Glasgow City Mission
Image caption,
Night shelters were closed during lockdown over fears of the spread of the virus

Night shelters for the homeless are to be phased out and replaced with "rapid rehousing welcome centres", the Scottish government has said.

The new centres will provide those in need with a bed for the night in the first instance then longer term accommodation.

Ministers said this would happen "ideally" within 24 hours.

Homeless charity Shelter said the government needed to focus on building more affordable homes.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said the new centres formed part of the government's plan to end homelessness and rough sleeping "once and for all".

The administration has updated its proposals for tackling homelessness, with a promise to expand "rapid rehousing approaches".

The blueprint also commits to meeting the target of building 50,000 affordable new homes, and outlines an ambition for a "significant increase in the proportion of social homes allocated to people who are homeless".

The updated Ending Homelessness Together plan comes in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which lead to night shelters closing over fears the virus could spread easily in dormitory-style accommodation.

Image source, Getty Images

Mr Stewart said: "This updated action plan renews our commitment to ending homelessness and rough sleeping once and for all, particularly by expanding services such as Housing First that provide longer-term accommodation and give homeless people the time and space to establish new lives for themselves."

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the charity Crisis, said the updated plans were "brilliant to see".

He added: "The outbreak has shown that we can tackle homelessness and end rough sleeping when the will is there."

But Shelter Scotland director Alison Watson stressed the need to build more homes, as she claimed the homelessness system was already "in crisis before the pandemic".

Image caption,
The Scottish government has made a new commitment to end homelessness

She said the new measures go "some way to improving services, protections from eviction and support people desperately need", but added: "The reason so many people have ended up in hotels and bed and breakfasts during the pandemic is because we didn't have enough social homes for them.

"We know that the only way to end the cycle of homelessness is to build enough homes for people to live in. So while today's announcement is welcome, we need Scottish government ministers to go further and to commit funding for enough social and affordable homes.

Ms Watson said an estimated additional 37,100 social homes were currently required to reduce the numbers of people in need of housing.