Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

current issue

June – July 2024 : Reflections READ ONLINE


News in Brief 150: June – July 2024

June 01 2024
News in Brief by Sophie Dianne

Grand opening

The Museum of Homelessness (MoH) opened its doors to the public for the first time on 24 May. Situated close to Manor House entrance to Finsbury Park, north London, MoH has refurbished the groundskeeper's lodge in the park and has run a series of workshops for people experiencing homelessness in the buildup to officially opening. The museum's first show at its new home is called How to Survive the Apocalypse, an immersive exhibition drawing on MoH’s front-line experience supporting the homeless community on London. The exhibition will be open on Fridays and Saturdays through to November 2024.

© Centre for Homelessness Impact
The Together Through Homelessness project, run by Dogs Trust, passed an impressive milestone in April, supporting 10,000 dogs with over 30,000 free vet treatments since the project began. The project provides free emergency and routine veterinary care to the dogs of people experiencing homelessness across the UK. Commenting on the milestone and the project’s work, James Hickman, Head of Outreach Projects at Dogs Trust, said in a press release: “For many people experiencing homelessness, their dog is more than just a faithful companion; they are family.”

Plan panned

Draconian plans to criminalise rough sleepers for being deemed "a nuisance" or having an "excessive smell" have been dropped by ministers, after Tory MPs threatened to rebel against the proposal. Former home secretary Suella Braverman brought forward the proposal, wishing to tack it onto the heavily criticised criminal justice bill. For now, the plan, much like its architect, has been binned. Announcing the scrapping of the proposal, home secretary James Cleverly also promised the government will be “scrapping the outdated Vagrancy Act and replacing it with new measures that focus on supporting people”.

Publishing news

A new publishing imprint has been established to give a platform to authors with experience of homelessness. The Arts Council has provided funding to support Unheard Voices, an imprint hosted by The Endless Bookcase, an existing publishing company based in St Albans. The imprint’s start-up grant from the Arts Council will cover production and publishing costs for up to five new authors in fiction, poetry or non-fiction.

  • See the Unheard Voices advert in the centre pages of the magazine for information on how to get your writing published

© Christopher Hoggins
Book club: a new book about homelessness was released earlier this year. Roof-less is the firsthand experience of Christopher Hoggings, who was caught up in the UK’s housing crisis and experienced homelessness, family loss and an autism diagnosis in quick succession. Hoggings writes that the book tells the story of the housing crisis “in words and pictures,” featuring as it does his artwork (he designed the cover image seen to the left).

New housing bill

The Scottish Government published new legislation in late March affecting people at risk of or experiencing homelessness. The Housing (Scotland) Bill introduces an 'ask and act' duty on social landlords and bodies, such as the police and health settings, to ask about a person's housing situation and act to prevent homelessness where possible. Included in the bill are reforms to provide for people threatened with homelessness up to six months ahead, with provisions also being made for tenants experiencing domestic abuse. Elsewhere in the bill there is a proposal for long-term rent controls for private tenancies. Loss of private tenancy is a leading cause of homelessness in the UK. Housing minister Paul McLennan told Scottish Housing News: “Early action, through the kinds of measures included in the Housing Bill, results in fewer people reaching the point of housing crisis. It also means people facing homelessness have more choice and control over where they live”.

Closing shop

Right There, an Edinburgh charity, has said it has been forced to close two of its homeless accommodation sites in the capital by the City of Edinburgh Council. Third Force News (TFN) reports the council’s refusal to pass on an uplift in housing benefit to increase the housing management payment to the charity led to the decision, which also puts the jobs of 19 support workers at risk. The facilities house up to 44 people experiencing homelessness at a time. Speaking to TFN, Janet Haugh, CEO of Right There, said: “We have done everything in our power to resolve this with the Council but sadly as a charity we simply cannot absorb a projected £2.5 million deficit over the next five years and continue running this service.”

© the Pavement
Beat the heat: summer heat can be deadly, so it’s important to stay hydrated. Most major train stations in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London will have free refill fountains like the one pictured above, taken in Islington, London. Places open to the public such as libraries and museums will also usually have free water refill fountains.

  • For more tips on staying safe this summer, see Groundswell health advice on page 21

National emergency

The Scottish government announced a national housing crisis in May. The emergency was called a week after John Swinney was named first minister, replacing Humza Yousaf. Swinney and the government faced calls to declare an emergency by a number of local authorities, including Glasgow and Edinburgh. Although the declaration has been welcomed by councils and charities, it doesn't come with additional funding, nor has any new policy been put into action. Instead, the declaration of a housing emergency represents an acknowledgement by the government of the dire situation. Quoted in the Big Issue, housing minister Paul McLennan suggested the government will invest £600m in affordable housing, while also introducing rent controls.

Council failures

In an alarming report, the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) has identified eight local authorities at risk of “systemic failure” in delivering homelessness services. The SHR's risk assessment of social landlords found the following councils are failing to meet demand for homelessness services: Aberdeen City, Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee City, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, Fife, Stirling and West Lothian. Last December the SHR announced Glasgow and Edinburgh are experiencing "systemic failure" in their homelessness services. Inside Housing shared a worrying line from the SHR report: “From our [SHR's] ongoing engagement with all local authorities, we anticipate that the position for many will continue to deteriorate in the short to medium term.”