SCOTLAND’S night shelters will be phased out and replaced with centres offering rough sleepers targeted support under new proposals set out by ministers.

The Scottish Government will replace the shelters with rapid rehousing welcome centres for those who would be rough sleeping this winter.

The accommodation will provide emergency shelter that will offer wrap-around support for health, social care and wellbeing issues – as well as help with employment, welfare and legal rights.

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A charity has praised the “renewed ambition” from the Scottish Government – but others have called for a vast expansion of social housing to be built in order to prevent people becoming homeless across the country.

The Scottish Government's updated action plan for tackling homelessness, includes the new facilities as part of plans to phase out night shelters entirely by expanding rapid rehousing strategies such as housing first that provide settled accommodation to people as quickly as possible.

The plan also includes ambitions to minimise the risk of evictions, stronger protections for victims of domestic abuse and a commitment to investigate alternative methods to try and reduce migrant homelessness.

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Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “Our vision is of a Scotland with no need for night shelters – where everyone has a home that meets their needs.

“Since our plan for tackling homelessness was first published in 2018, we have delivered on many of the urgent issues facing homeless people. The Scottish Government’s swift response to coronavirus has led to a dramatic reduction in the numbers of people sleeping rough and we must not let the problem return.”

He added: “This updated action plan renews our commitment to ending homelessness and rough sleeping once and for all, particularly by expanding services such as Housing First that provide longer-term accommodation and give homeless people the time and space to establish new lives for themselves.

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“We are also placing even greater emphasis on preventing homelessness in the first place, and our new rapid rehousing welcome centres and are a first step to ending the use of night shelters altogether.

“I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this updated plan.”

Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes, chair of the homelessness and rough sleeping action group, said: “The ambition shown by the Scottish Government in publishing a revised Action Plan is brilliant to see. It builds on unprecedented action throughout the pandemic to protect people experiencing homelessness, and shows renewed ambition - including a commitment to move away from night shelters. The outbreak has shown that we can tackle homelessness and end rough sleeping when the will is there.

“As the economic impact of the outbreak continues to be felt, it is more important than ever to prevent people from losing their homes in the first place, and ensuring that if they do, they are helped to find somewhere safe and settled straight away. These actions must be a priority to ensure that Scotland continues towards ending homelessness for good.”

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Shelter Scotland has welcomed the priorities but has called for more investment in the building of social homes to stop people being forced into homelessness and rough sleeping.

Shelter Scotland director, Alison Watson, said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to end homelessness as set out in today’s update to the action plan.

“With thousands of people worried about losing their job and their home, we need everyone in government, banking, the third sector and across the country to step up to prevent a second wave of coronavirus from creating a tsunami of homelessness.”

She added: “Our homelessness system was in crisis before the pandemic and today’s announcement goes some way to improving the services, protections from eviction and support people desperately need.

“The reason so many people have ended up in hotels, and Bed and Breakfasts during the pandemic is because we didn’t have enough social homes for them. We know that the only way to end the cycle of homelessness is to build enough homes for people to live in. So, while today’s announcement is welcome, we need Scottish Government ministers to go further and to commit funding for enough social and affordable homes.

“The government needs a plan that will deliver the 37,100 social homes that academics have calculated are required to reduce the numbers of people in need of housing for the first time in decades.”