THE latest statistics from the Scottish Government on homelessness make sobering reading.

Anyone who is involved in the homelessness sector is under no illusion that the scale of the challenge is huge and the levels of demand are increasing.

Still, when you see it in black and white, it inevitably leads to a sharp intake of breath.

That is not to say that there is no desire to change things.

On the contrary, the Scottish Government has announced a significant fund of £50 million to target both rough sleeping and wider issues of homelessness and work is ongoing to see how that money can best be spent.

However, the two main drivers of homelessness, supply and support, will not be dealt with by this fund alone as the scale of the challenge is too big for a simple one-off investment to fix the problem.

In Scotland, the average social rent in 2017 was around £330 per month, the equivalent figure for the private rented sector was around £780.

Put simply, too many people are priced out of housing or the percentage of income needed to afford it means that household finances are stretched beyond what is manageable.

The reason for the difference between social rents and the private sector is one of simple economics.

Demand hugely outstrips supply and rents rise. In a world where returns on savings are very limited due to low interest rates, it is still possible to make ten per cent gearing on letting a property.

The only way to change that paradigm is for a lot more social housing to be built and in turn reduce rent inflation by lowering demand for private lets. Sounds easy? It is but it will take a political consensus, 25 years of increased home building and a belief that housing should be about somewhere decent to live and not just an investment vehicle.

The other issue that is a major driver of homelessness is a lack of support for vulnerable people. This has been highlighted by changes in benefits provision and ongoing austerity.

However, the long waiting lists for mental health services, reductions to local authority funding and the overall demand for support outstripping supply leads to people just not being able to sustain tenancies effectively.

To genuinely tackle homelessness it will take a political consensus and a willingness to make the long-term investment in housing and support.

It can be done and it can start to get better quickly but only if the political establishment will make the long-term commitment necessary to ensure that everyone who needs a home gets a home.

Gavin Yates is the chief executive of Homeless Action Scotland