Authorities join forces to tackle homelessness

Aberdeenshire councillor Anne Stirling and Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning
Aberdeenshire councillor Anne Stirling and Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning

Seven local authorities from the north of Scotland gathered in Aberdeen recently to discuss plans to tackle homelessness.

The event, held at Woodhill House in Aberdeen on Friday, January 31, was opened by Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning, who spoke of the Scottish Government’s support for the ‘rapid rehousing’ approach.

The session itself was organised by the North and Islands Homelessness and Housing Options Hub and hosted by Aberdeenshire Council.

The focus of the day was to clarify understanding of rapid rehousing, to identify the role and contribution of partners organisations, and to seek commitment towards the implementation of rapid rehousing across the authority areas.

The north and islands hub is made up of seven local authorities: Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire Council, Moray Council, Highland council, Orkney Islands Council, Shetlands Islands Council and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Each authority has developed a rapid rehousing transition plan, outlining the approach councils will take to identify housing as quickly as possible where homelessness can’t be prevented.

The plans also aim to reduce the time spent in temporary accommodation and ensure that, where needed, such accommodation is furnished and within a community.

As well as the councils, attendees included representatives of social landlords, housing support providers and organisations focusing on homelessness.

Workshops were held on a variety of themes, including homelessness prevention, tenancy sustainment, and delivery of rapid rehousing TPs in rural areas, and the Housing First service.

Allan Jones, a housing manager for Aberdeenshire Council and hub lead, said: “While each authority has its own plan to reduce homelessness, the hub allows councils in the north of Scotland and the islands to work collectively, share best practice and offer support.

“The event has been a very positive starting point for the work that will be taking place over the coming years and this will be the first of several meetings to discuss progress and consider challenges and opportunities.”

The requirement to produce rapid rehousing transition plans arose from the work of the Homeless and Rough Sleeping Action Group, set up by the Scottish Government in October 2017.

Aberdeenshire Council’s plan was approved by the authority’s Communities Committee in February last year, outlining how the council will move to the rapid rehousing approach over the next five years.

Communities Committee chair Cllr Anne Stirling, who welcomed the meeting to Aberdeen, said: “The rapid rehousing approach isn’t just about accommodation. It’s about how services and partners need to work together to ensure we are meeting all the needs of the individual.

“This event has been a great opportunity to discuss our approaches, and it’s that spirit of collaboration that will give us the best chance of making a measurable difference.”

Rapid rehousing recognises that most households experiencing homelessness may only require some assistance in terms of establishing a tenancy, rather than wider support for other matters that may have led to homelessness.

For those with severe and multiple disadvantages, Housing First, with its emphasis on providing settled accommodation and wrap around intensive support is viewed as the means to end the cycle of homelessness.

Funding has been provided by the Scottish Government under the Ending Homelessness Together Fund to allow councils to implement their plans.