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Committee discusses Council's work to address homelessness

13th August 2020

Members of The Highland Council's Housing and Property Committee have had the chance to discuss the progress made to implement a Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan aimed at tackling homelessness.

In November 2018 the Scottish Government and COSLA published the "Ending Homelessness Together" Action Plan which included the recommendation that all local authorities produce Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans to document how they would tackle homelessness. The Council's Plan on eliminating homelessness was submitted to the Scottish Government in April 2019.

The update presented today confirmed that Scottish Government funding has been used to recruit 3 specialist housing officers to work with homeless applicants who have been in temporary accommodation the longest or have the most complex needs. The new postholders are now in place.

The Highland Drug and Alcohol Partnership received separate funding and have entered into a partnership with the Council and NHS Highland to develop a Housing First project in the Inner Moray Firth area focused on clients who are homeless or at risk of homelessness due to harmful and significant drug and /or alcohol use. A new project office with a team of 3 has been set up in the Hilton area of Inverness. The first Housing First tenancy in Highland is now in place providing accommodation for 4 service users.

As part of the Rapid Rehousing Plan it was agreed that the Council would trial the use of shared temporary accommodation for single homeless people. To date 20 shared properties have been set up in Inverness and Ross and Cromarty to accommodate 40 clients. Councillors were advised that the model has proved effective and has been popular with the service users.

In order to minimise the use of bed-and-breakfast type accommodation, the council has also been increasing its stock of self-contained temporary accommodation primarily for homeless households with children. In May 2018 there were 237 suitable units and in May this year the figure had risen to 387.

Chair of the Committee, Cllr Ben Thompson said: "The current changes to homeless legislation are about moving the system away from personal assessment against legal tests to a more client-focused service. It has been good to discuss the progress made to move forward with this new way of dealing with homelessness as well as to look in more detail about the implications."

Addressing homelessness is a priority for the council. An emergency staff working group is meeting weekly to review and address the challenges that the council is currently facing in providing temporary accommodation.

Cllr Thompson added: “The Council is experiencing very significant pressures in relation to homelessness. The service is seeing increasing demand in case numbers, is faced with housing demand far exceeding available supply and has been placed under additional stress as a result of Covid-19. As the transition plans continue moving forward we will be monitoring all the new measures and following up any necessary actions that arise.”

 

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