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Housing crisis

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Housing crisis

THE housing service in Dumfries and Galloway is at “crisis point” this week due to a record number of homeless people in the region.

The number of homeless presentations has jumped by nearly a third and there has been a 91.5 percent increase in open cases compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019/20.

Dumfries and Galloway Council housing chiefs have revealed that the ongoing increase in demand “shows no signs of slowing down” and that the service is under “significant pressure”.

At the communities committee on Tuesday, former council co-leader Linda Dorward said: “We are at a crisis point in terms of the availability of accommodation.

“What are the plans going forward in terms of increasing accommodation?”

Lorna Campbell, the council’s financial wellbeing and revenues manager, replied: “Yes I agree, we are at crisis point.”

She then explained that the council has recruited four new homelessness assistants to the team, along with two new supervisors, to better manage the workload and improve the overall service.

The officer added: “At the moment we have to take a homeless application when someone presents either roofless that night or having a threat of homelessness within three months.

“What we’re looking to do is work with private landlords and RSLs (registered social landlords) to intervene much earlier.

“So, if someone is indicating they’re going to be in arrears or their house situation is inappropriate, it’s trying to get that early intervention to find a solution for the client before they present as homeless, or before they actually lose their property and need to come down the homeless and temporary accommodation route.”

In the 11 months from April 2022 until February 2023, the council recorded 1153 homeless applications – and a record number in the final quarter of this financial year. The number of people presenting as homeless out of hours was 205.

The number of open homeless cases in the same period was 561, while the number of households in temporary accommodation stood at 231.

Harry Hay, the council’s head of neighbourhood services, revealed that it has been “increasingly difficult to keep up with the demand” for required accommodation.

He explained that once the council finds temporary accommodation for people who have ended up homeless, the council often reaches an agreement with the private landlord or RSL for the property to become their permanent address.

Mr Hay stressed that longer term work is being done between the council and RSL partners with their strategic housing investment programme to deliver more suitable properties to help alleviate homelessness in the region.

Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “In common with the rest of Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway is facing a housing emergency.

“The latest homelessness statistics show there were a record number of live homelessness applications as of September 30 last year in Dumfries and Galloway, and the same is true of Scotland as whole.

“This is being driven by a lack of investment in social housing across the country for decades and local homelessness services suffering from chronic underfunding.

“Sadly, in its most recent budget the Scottish Government slashed the funds available to deliver new social homes, which will inevitably have disastrous consequences for the fight against homelessness Dumfries and Galloway and beyond unless the new First Minister changes course.”

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