THE country must “wake up” to the growing scale of the homelessness problem in light of new figures, it is claimed.

Shelter Scotland says the latest Holyrood data on the subject shows that one household became homeless every 18 minutes between April and September last year.

The Scottish Government says “significant” steps have been taken to address the issue since then.

However, Shelter Scotland says its warning is not being heard and both local and national government must take action.

The charity’s Adam Lang said: “This is just not acceptable in 21st century Scotland.

“This must be a wake-up call for local and national government that Scotland’s progress on tackling homelessness has stalled and in some places, is getting worse.

“Shelter Scotland has been warning for some time now that the situation is critical and with these figures revealing another increase in homeless children in temporary accommodation — up 10 per cent — we need urgent strategic action to reverse this trend.”

There were almost 6600 youngsters without a permanent residence on the last day of September, marking a rise of 594 on the same day in 2016.

That rise comes at the end of a period when overall applications to councils for homelessness assistance went up by two per cent to almost 17,800.

Officials assessing these concluded more than 80 per cent of the households involved were either already homeless or threatened with losing their place to stay.

As September ended, almost 10,900 households were in temporary accommodation, a rise of one per cent on the previous year.

Pregnant women or children were present in one third of these cases.

On the individuals behind the statistics, Lang went on: “These are not just numbers, they represent thousands of people’s lives suffering the human tragedy of homelessness. Among them are 6581 children without a permanent place to call home, which causes significant and lasting damage to their health, schooling and life chances.

“It is now time for leadership and strategic action on homelessness at a local and national level that makes a real difference on the ground for everyone in Scotland at risk of or suffering homelessness.”

Lib Dem housing spokesperson Caron Lindsay called the rise in children without a home of their own “heartbreaking”.

She said: “It’s time for the SNP to get to grips with the housing crisis and do what the Lib Dems have been saying and increase the number of houses for social rent.”

However, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said his government is tackling the issue.

He said: “Everyone deserves a safe and warm place to call home which is why we are committed to ending homelessness and rough sleeping for good.

“It is important to note that these figures are for the six months ending September 2017 — since then we have taken forward significant actions on homelessness.

“Moreover, in the last decade, and since the same period in 2007, homelessness applications have fallen by over 38 per cent.

“I would hope, and expect, to see improvements as we renew and redouble our efforts.

“Our Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group is leading the way in recommending the actions and legislative changes needed to tackle homelessness and the use of temporary accommodation, backed by £50 million to drive change.

“Since its first meeting in October, the group has worked at pace to develop actions that can have the most impact — starting with how we tackle rough sleeping this winter.

“That work now continues as we look to eradicate rough sleeping, end homelessness, and transform temporary accommodation.”

For the year to September, almost 34,870 homeless applications were submitted to councils, marking a 0.3 per cent increase for this period.

A total of 10,900 cases were assessed as “unintentionally homeless” between April and September, with most of those involved going on to private rented accommodation.