A Highland councillor has warned of a potential ‘tsunami’ of homelessness in light of the fragility of many residents’ finances.
Deputy leader Alasdair Christie, also general manager of Inverness Badenoch and Strathspey Citizens Advice Bureau, issued the warning as councillors discussed a report prepared for the Scottish Government on its plans to tackle homelessness in the region.
He said: “Surveys show that most people only have enough funds to last until their next pay check. That’s how fragile the sustainability of their housing situation may be.
“You just need an event here like the Michelin job losses in Dundee to generate a tsunami of homelessness coming towards us.”
For the first time, all councils are required to submit a five year Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan to the Scottish Government.
Highland Council says it will focus on prevention to stop homelessness happening in the first place, reducing the time – up to a year- households spend in temporary accommodation, helping staff make better use of existing housing stock and helping homeless households access the right type of support.
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Head of housing David Goldie said the council was trying to reduce the number of houses of multiple occupation and poor quality temporary accommodation it uses.
At present there are 550 households in temporary accommodation, with the vast majority in Inverness.
“There are also pressures in Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch and Strathspey,” he said.
Mr Goldie said the council is working on a business case for building its own specialist accommodation for homeless with multiple, complex needs.
Mr Christie said this was a step in the right direction towards changing people’s lives and giving hope back.
Councillor Richard Laird said he supported the action plan in the light of how the UK-wide housing crisis is affecting Highland communities, where 25% of homeless are aged 18-25.
He said: “We need to push to have more affordable housing in rural communities to keep young people within their support network.
“We need to support those who can’t sustain tenancies in the long-term for a host of reasons.
“We also need to stop the private sector charging high prices for B&Bs and temporary accommodation, inflicting a massive penalty on the council.”
Inverness South councillor Ken Gowans said the report was a rude awakening.
He said: “A lot of homeless people are the victims of circumstance. My ward is the most affluent in Highland but the problem is here too, my case load is getting fuller with people with problems from the DWP or Universal Credit, leaving the council to pick up the pieces.”