HOMELESSNESS in Scotland has seen a large increase this year, with numbers now beyond pre-pandemic levels according to official figures released on Tuesday.

There was also an increase in Scottish children living in temporary accommodation, with an increase to 9595 representing a record high. 

The total number of households in temporary accommodation was also the highest on record at 15,039 – a 6% increase since the same time the year before.

Between March 2020 and March 2023, Scotland has seen a 27% increase in the number of households in temporary accommodation, and a 30% increase in the number of children in temporary accommodation, the report noted. 

Housing Minister Paul McLennan called the statistics “deeply worrying”, adding that it shows Scotland is facing the same trend as the rest of the UK with households geeling the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and the fall out from the pandemic.

In the statistics published by the Scottish Government, increases were seen across the board. 

32,242 households were assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness in Scotland between April 2022 and March 2023 – an increase of 2903 (or 10%) compared to the previous year and higher than pre-pandemic levels.

There was also a 9% increase in applications for homelessness assistance, at 39,006.

READ MORE: Councils struggling to cope with rising levels of homelessness, says charity

The number of households becoming homeless from private-rented tenancy dropped to 2200 for the second six months of 2022-2023, in reaction to the cost of living legislation introduced in October 2022 to protect renters.

There has also been an increase in rough sleeping, with 2438 households reporting rough sleeping during the previous three months and 1,500 the night before the application. These remain lower than pre-pandemic levels.

The average length of time to close a homelessness case has also been increasing over time and reached an average of 266 days in 2022-23, compared with 226 in 2019-20.

275 homelessness applications nationally reported being from a Ukrainian displaced household.

McLennan (below) reaffirmed the Scottish Government’s determination to work with partners to tackle homelessness in response to Tuesday’s statistics.

The National: MSP Paul McLennan

Commenting on the figures, he said: “Today’s statistics are deeply worrying. They show Scotland is facing the same trend as the rest of the UK where there is a clear impact on households of the current cost of living crisis and the continuing fall out from the pandemic on homelessness.

"Tackling homelessness is a key priority and it is critical that local government and other partners work with us to reach our shared goal of reversing these figures and delivering on our long term strategy for tackling homelessness.

“I am very disappointed by the high number of people, including many children, who were living in temporary accommodation in March 2023. Scotland has the strongest rights across the UK nations for people experiencing homelessness and - whilst it shows our legislation is working to make sure people are not roofless and provided with a home - temporary accommodation should be just that; temporary.

"I have been meeting with housing conveners in the areas with the greatest homelessness pressures and discussing action we can take collectively to reverse these figures.

"We are already acting on the recommendations of the expert Temporary Accommodation Task and Finish Group, including providing funding for councils and social landlords to rapidly acquire properties for use as social homes, asking social landlords to increase allocations to homeless households, and supporting councils to develop targeted plans.

“As well as local authorities and social landlords, we are working with key partners – including the Convention Of Scottish Local Authorities, the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers, the Scottish Housing Regulator and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations – to consider what we need to do differently to reduce the use of temporary accommodation.

“We are also investing heavily to increase housing supply and the number of affordable homes completed in the latest year to end March 2023 is the highest annual figure in more than two decades.

“The statistics also indicate our emergency tenant protection legislation has led to a drop in households becoming homeless from a private tenancy and we intend to take forward legislation to provide greater protections to prevent homelessness, keep rents affordable, and make tenancies more secure.”

Matt Downie, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, said it was a "critical moment" for Scotland/

He added: “Homelessness ruins people’s lives. But, as these figures show, more people are now sleeping on the streets and more children are growing up in homelessness. The number of people being made homeless is at its highest since 2012. This was already an emergency, but we are now at risk of a growing catastrophe.

“This is a critical moment for Scotland. We can push on and take the first steps towards the end of homelessness, or we can watch as progress slips, with thousands of people forced to suffer the consequences.

“The Scottish Government must push on with plans to prevent homelessness, so people can get help earlier and so public services help stop people being forced from their homes. The UK Government must urgently invest in Housing Benefit, to avert more people being pushed into homelessness.

“We know what has caused this rise and we know the damage homelessness does. But by working together, and with all levels of government making the right choices, we can end it. We can’t afford to wait.”