FOUR in 10 Scots are just two pay cheques away from homelessness, a study suggests.

More than 40 per cent of people told researchers they may be unable to pay their rent or mortgage within eight weeks of losing their job.

Meanwhile, 25 per cent said they – or someone they know – have experienced homelessness and more than 30 per cent said they believe they or someone known to them could lose their home in the future.

The findings, which are published today, come from research carried out for Street Soccer Scotland, which uses football to tackle poverty, homelessness and social exclusion in the country’s major cities, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness.

Founder David Duke, who was homeless for three years following the death of his father, said the findings show how a change in circumstances can send lives into a downward spiral.

He said: “We need to end the stigma of homelessness – the us and them mentality. As these figures show, it can happen to any of us.

“Homelessness does not discriminate. We often think of it as something that happens to other people – to certain people in society. Our research shows that, far from being an isolated problem, the risk of homelessness is too high for too many people in Scotland.

“It can take just one small change in circumstances. For me, it was bereavement when my dad died, but it can equally be illness or having your hours reduced at work, that sends people into a spiral towards homelessness.

“It doesn’t just apply to people on the fringes of society, we’re talking about people who have jobs and mortgages who are also at risk, as well as people renting their homes – people who think it could never happen to them.

“With so many of us believing we’re at risk of homelessness, it’s time we take stock of the way we view and treat homeless people. One day, it could happen to us.”

More than half of those surveyed said that they would not know what to do if they lost their accommodation.

The findings are based on almost 1100 responses given to the ScotPulse online panel in late October, which revealed that younger people were more likely to identify themselves as potentially at risk of homelessness. As many as 34,100 households made homelessness applications to Scottish councils in 2016-17, and there are estimates of around 5000 people currently on the street.

Estimates suggest one household becomes homeless every 19 minutes in Scotland.

And a recent report by Street Soccer Scotland found 40 per cent of the public are “fearful” of speaking to rough sleepers.

The Scottish Government’s Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group is working on ways to reduce the number of rough sleepers this winter and how to change public perceptions.

Duke, who sits on the group, said: “Getting rid of misconceptions around homelessness, and the stigma it brings, will not only help people who are homeless today, but also future generations.

“If we get rid of stigma people will be less embarrassed about getting help before it’s too late. They’ll get help earlier and hopefully prevent homelessness happening.”