Charity urges expansion of seven-day limit on homeless B&Bs

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A homelessness charity wants ministers to bring forward legislation to place a seven-day limit on the use of unsuitable temporary homeless accommodation, such as B&Bs.

Crisis surveyed homeless people living in B&Bs, hotels or unsupported hostels in six council areas in Scotland and found many felt isolated and depressed and were subject to curfews and bans on visits.

The interviews with 74 people in Aberdeenshire, Edinburgh, East Lothian, Glasgow, Highland and Midlothian found 60% were subject to a curfew and three-quarters were not allowed visits from family or friends.

More than four in five (84%) said they felt isolated and almost nine in 10 (88%) felt depressed due to their living situation.

Just under half (45%) of those interviewed said they had no access to a kitchen, causing more than half to regularly skip meals and four in 10 said this happened daily or most days.

Slightly more than third (34%) of people had no access to a fridge.

One of those interviewed, Katie, has been stuck in a B&B for more than a year.

She said: “It’s really depressing and you’re just stuck there and you don’t even have any cooking facilities – all you’ve got is a kettle and that’s it.

“So, when you’re on a budget, how can you eat properly? You can’t.”

Crisis wants the Scottish Government to commit to changing the law this parliamentary year to bring in a seven-day limit for the use of unsuitable temporary accommodation for homeless people.

A week-long restriction is currently in place for families and pregnant women but there is no limit for other homeless people who can be stuck in such accommodation for lengthy periods.

Ministers have accepted in principle the recommendation of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group that the seven-day limit should apply to all homeless people – but there has been no indication of when this might happen.

Official statistics show a 9% increase in homeless B&B use in Scotland from 2016/17 to 2017/18 with 1,215 people accommodated there at any one time, up from 1,113.

In 2017/18 4,730 households entered B&B accommodation but only 2,510 left.

Temporary accommodation figures
Homeless households in temporary accommodation in Scotland (Crisis/PA)

“Lengthy stays in B&Bs, unsupported hostels or hotels are destructive, demoralising and stop people moving on with their lives.

“We know councils are working on rapid re-housing plans that will enable homeless people to be housed faster, but there must be a legal backstop which will restrict the use of unsuitable temporary housing to just seven days for everyone.”

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “While temporary accommodation provides an important safety net in emergency situations, we want the time anyone has to spend there to be as short as possible.

“We are investing £6.5 million to support a Housing First approach, which focuses on getting a a person into settled accommodation first so they can then access support from the security of their own home.”

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