By John Mckee, Housing commentator and freelance journalist

IT has been a bitter month. No one with a heart made of anything less than black ice needs a lecture to tug empathy about the piteous state of the rough sleeper outside the shop, lying on decrepit cardboard, in a soaking sleeping bag and frozen to the very marrow as you walk in to scrabble for bread. We see, we shop and on the way out, we part with change; and briefly, we have a sense of moral comfort.

A cup of tea? A few pounds? A chat? A promise to ourselves that someday we’d like to do something about it? Homelessness is complex and there is no silver bullet to this multi-faceted problem. Scotland is often said to have some of the most progressive laws on homelessness but we have made poor progress, according to homeless charities; anyone walking down Sauchiehall Street can tell you the same.

In Finland, thanks to Housing First, a programme tested in Denver that established a home as a right and inverts traditional models of conditional or temporary shelter, rough sleeping has been virtually eliminated.

The Scottish Government has said it accepts the Homelessness Task Force’s recommendations to implement a Housing First scheme with Social Bite but it lags England, which already has three pilots running. In Germany, rent controls are a totem of housing policy, with much more secure tenancies.

Our Housing Options programme seeks to take a preventative approach and to provide assistance before people reach the stage of homelessness. Deep thinking and long-term solutions are crucial but there is also a pressing need to curb the brutal effects of rough sleeping and homelessness. Short-term fixes are often ridiculed as a sticking plaster but, when you are bleeding, what else do you apply?

At First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard had a constructive exchange with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Showing a capacity to think outside the box and a depth of knowledge of policy, he suggested a “winter truce”, akin to “La Treve Hivernale” in France, which bans evictions between October 31 and March 31, and prevents utility companies from cutting off gas or electricity.

Mr Leonard suggested that we adopt such a system, to briefly stem the rising evictions fuelled by the welfare cap and the maladroit transition to Universal Credit . Ms Sturgeon said she would think about it: “I will commit my Government to doing exactly as Richard Leonard has just said there in considering that as a step we can take to help us tackle what we all accept is a ... serious issue.”

The humanitarian case is compelling. Being able to take the steps to extricate yourself from homelessness is subsumed by the sheer fight to stay warm, to survive. In France, as evictions have risen in past decades with 15,200 households evicted in 2016, its winter truce has proved effective. It saves money on vital emergency services such as health and police. Crucially, it also allows those at risk of eviction to take steps to prepare to avoid ending up on a frozen street.

Labour has rightly called for more homes to be built. The Scottish Government’s decision to take up the pioneering Housing First Model is necessary but 39 homeless people died in Glasgow between May and March and 18 died in Edinburgh between 2015-16. Last month, Darren Greenfield, a former soldier, died near the Scottish Parliament. The cold kills. The convenient delusion that there’s nothing we can do beyond putting 50p in a plastic cup or waiting until thousands of new homes are built is crueller yet. We should support calls for a Scottish winter truce.