Please sir, may I have some food and shelter

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s not to take our basic needs for granted. When we’re cooking a meal we should be thankful that we can provide for ourselves; when running a bath we could be grateful for being clean; and when we settle down for the night we should remember that a further 4% of our population has become homeless since the pandemic started. 

4% may not seem like a large increase. In fact, it’s just a statistic. But if you strip that back and think of the 51,365 people this percentage represents, you can start to have a glimpse into the struggle these people face on a day-to-day basis. 

It’s important to remember that those that are homeless aren’t always the people you see on the streets. It could be your colleague that’s been evicted and is now sleeping one someone’s couch or a neighbour whose house is unsuitable to live in. Everyone’s situations are different and should not be treated the same as the person before them. We shouldn’t paint everyone with the same brush.

According to the Scottish Government’s website, 66% of people that have became homeless this year are from a single person household, whereas the other 28% are families with children. Let me break these statistics down:

  • 66% = 35,654 adults 
  • 28% = 15,711 families 

It seems as though the members of our government are more than capable of creating a fancy table to show the rise in homelessness, but when it comes down to solving the issue they hide away in their “modern” £414 million ivory tower and hope that society and charities will do the job for them. 

If it weren’t for charities like Shelter, we wouldn’t have the slightest idea on how those that are homeless survive and make it through the year(s). They have a plethora of resources for everyone to access, both online and in-store. Which is more than what the governments website has and the same can be said for our local authorities. 

Speaking of local authorities, isn’t Dundee one of the UK’s poorest cities? According to an article written by The Guardian, a charity based in the fourth largest city in Scotland, known as Eagles Wings Trust has had to reduce some of its services. It said: “The pandemic has forced a change to its usual work; the former evening soup kitchen and afternoon drop-in centre has been reduced to a daily food-bank service, with a clientele that is more diverse than ever.”

With little government spending and charities having to reduce their services, how are those that are homeless going to manage? It’s not as if there’s a magic money pot lying around, or a plan to introduce more homeless shelters, further housing, soup kitchens or even a programme to help prevent people from becoming homeless again. 

The Scottish Government’s recent figures on homelessness show how many people have ended up homeless again after a certain period of time. Within one year, 6% of people that used to be homeless will return to the streets, 12% within three years and 15% within five years. And if those figures won’t shock you, it took the government an average of 16 days to assess the applications made by those that were homeless and 4,595 people were not offered temporary housing during the period 2019/20. 

That’s over two weeks of stress, hunger and uncertainty most homeless people will have to endure, with absolutely no guarantee on if their application will be approved. I haven’t even taken into account the dramatic and ever changing Scottish weather we face on a daily basis. 

With Christmas just over the government seem to be more concerned about those in society that are more advantaged rather than focusing on the on-going restrictions homeless people have been facing for far too long. Imagine being restricted from the basic needs of food and shelter? With absolutely no sight of a positive, normal future. 

Maybe if the Scottish government treated homelessness like the pandemic that it is, no one would need to decide where they would be getting their next meal from or where to sleep for the night. 

Buchanan Street, Glasgow

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