Scotland's system for tackling homelessness is “broken beyond repair” according to a homelessness charity, with disconnected services and a “deeply damaging” reliance on temporary accommodation.

Maggie Brunjes, chief executive of Homeless Network Scotland (HNS), said a dysfunctional system had become normalised and urged councils to adopt a new approach, adding: “You can’t patch up the system when the system itself is the problem.”

HNS is part of a shift, backed by the Scottish Government, towards a housing first model. This is based on offering homeless people with significant challenges in their lives, such as addiction, debts or mental health problems, access to a new home right away and providing support to help tackle their problems once they are rehoused.

The approach is being piloted in five “pathfinder” cities: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and Stirling.

But Ms Brunjes said the Government should go further and faster, and councils must start thinking in the longer term.

“The new direction is based on what we already know, that the answer to homelessness is a home,” she said.

“If we keep on saying: ‘What about tonight?’ then there will always be another night.

“Homelessness is deeply unfair and we are not all equally at risk of it. Nothing drives homelessness more than poverty.”

Once people have lost their home, the system is complicated across Scotland and stacked against them, she added.

“As soon as you are in it the system starts judging you on whether or not you are ready for housing. It is there to help but it locks people in and sometimes it locks people out.

“The system of housing people temporarily has developed over many decades and it is patronising, deeply damaging and demonising,” she said.

The Scottish Government’s Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan covers a range of programmes and initiatives to change this approach, with more emphasis on consulting people who have been homeless.

Writing in The Herald today, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart says: “We are leading the way in our approach to tackle homelessness – investing £32.5 million to support local authorities prioritise settled accommodation for all. Scotland is one of the first countries in the world to recognise the importance of making permanent accommodation the first response for people facing housing crisis. “We have achieved much in the past year but we have further to go.”