Over a year ago, I wrote about the personal experience of a friend of mine who, despite serious need of safe secure accommodation, was initially turned away from the Hamish Allan centre after spending the previous night under a table in one of the offices, regardless of the seriousness of the situation that she was in. A recent freedom of information request indicates that the situation has not improved and that Glasgow City Council are repeatedly breaking the law. And the situation is about to get worse.
A freedom of information request, requesting details of Glasgow’s response to homelessness shows up some appalling statistics. In particular there are an average of 22.8 homeless people turning up at Glasgow City Council services every day, almost half of these are not being considered “unintentionally homeless”, but of those who are, nearly a quarter of those who turn up to the main Community Casework service are being turned away, and 13% of those who turn up to the emergency out of hours Hamish Allan service are also turned away.
A further information request gives the breakdown of those who are accomodated in different types of accomodation. The breakdown is as follows.
- Temporary furnished flats – 1375
- Hamish Allan centre flats – 190
- GCC temporary accomodation – 120
- Non-GCC temporary accommodation – 278
- Bed and breakfast – GCC exclusive use – 115
- Hotel – 17
As can be seen there is a range of types of accommodation provided to people who are homeless. Some directly provided by the council, some indirectly provided. But this is clearly not the total sum of all temporary accommodation that is available in Glasgow. Particularly in the bed and breakfast and hotels sector. Of course many of these will be privately booked, there is simply not only 17 hotel beds available across the whole of Glasgow.
No-one at all who is unintentionally homeless should be being told that there is “no accommodation available”. It is a legal duty for Glasgow city council to make accommodation available for them. It is simply not true that there is “no accommodation available” in Glasgow. There are hotels all across the city centre. When they tell people there is “no accommodation available”, they are simply lying. A simple web search of hotels in Glasgow will see hundreds of rooms turn up daily, yet roughly 6 people per day are turned away on the basis of “no accommodation available”. It is Glasgow City Council’s legal duty to make suitable accomodation available for those who need it. It is not that it is not available, but that it is not available to them.
The poshest hotels in Glasgow, the Radisson, the Hilton, the Grand Central are almost never fully booked for a start. Until those hotels are completely full – there is accommodation in Glasgow, accommodation that anyone can access if they have sufficient funds to pay for a room. It is simply a refusal on the part of the council to make funds available for those who they have a legal duty to accommodate. Now, I’d quite like a wee stay at the Hilton, and yes, I completely appreciate that the Council’s budget doesn’t stretch to quite such luxury, but that isn’t the point. The point is that regardless of any other considerations, Glasgow City Council have a legal duty to accommodate homeless people. They should indeed be doing it with an eye to the pennies and in a cost effective manner, but if the only accommodation available is the Grand Master Penthouse Suite at Ye Olde Posho Hotel, they should be booking it. Because they are legally obliged. They are breaking the law by suggesting that there is no accommodation available when it is simply an outright refusal to accommodate.
The law says the council has to act in a certain way, and the council acts differently. It’s like you deciding not to pay a bill “because I spent the money in the pub”. Whatever the excuse, it’s still dodgy as. Whatever the council’s excuse, it’s still ignoring the law.
Homelessness Worker, Glasgow
This situation is only going to grow worse. The bedroom tax is putting massive strain on households and putting socially housed tenants into arrears. Evictions will follow, leading to more people becoming unintentionally homeless. The flipside is that those currently housed in temporary accommodation, particularly single people or couples, must wait until a one bedroom property becomes available before they can move into permanent accommodation. The benefits cap and changes to the maximum that can be claimed through housing benefit limited to the 30th percentile of the rental market also makes it difficult for people to find suitable homes in the private sector. Unless the council can provide more sustainable accomodation, they are going to end up breaking the law even more spectacularly.
Even the 6 people per day that they admit to illegally refusing accomodation to is likely not to be the full story, as even within the emergency out of hours Hamish Allan centre, nearly half of the people who present there are not considered to be “unintentionally homeless”, which makes you question why they were turning up out of hours at a crisis centre in the first place. Are all these people simply handing their keys in to the landlord at 5pm, and then wandering down to the Hamish Allan an hour later once they realise that they could do with somewhere to stay?
When local authorities are able to breach their statutory obligations on an ongoing basis with no consequence the law is meaningless. Despite admitting to turning away around 6 people per day who they are legally obliged to service, they have the arrogance to claim that they are ensuring that there will be adequate hotel accomodation available for the duration of the Commonwealth Games, a time when Glasgow is likely to find lots of wealthy tourists looking for rooms. If they cannot ensure adequate accomodation now, because they are simply unwilling to provide it, there is no way that they are likely to be able to meet need during a particularly pressurised time.