MINISTERS have been warned the homelessness system to safeguard survivors of domestic and sexual abuse is “struggling to cope” as more than 14,000 Scottish households are “effectively trapped in temporary accommodation”.

Shelter Scotland has also warned that the SNP’s flagship process for ensuring those facing homelessness are given settled accommodation is “still stuck on the starting blocks” due to a lack of suitable homes.

Rough sleepers, particularly in Glasgow and Edinburgh have been temporarily housed in hotels during the pandemic – but Shelter has warned no plan has been drawn up for when the accommodation is no longer available and have also raised fears that vulnerable people are not being given the adequate support they need.

READ MORE: It shouldn't take a pandemic to show we can end rough sleeping

Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland, has labelled the ability to temporarily move rough sleepers off the streets as “a very welcome measure”.

She said: “I think there’s a lot of success in terms of taking that as an opportunity to say here’s a group of people who are now in one place, we can build relationships with them, we can understand what the issues are and work with them to make sure that the right support is put in place so that they can sustain accommodation going forward.

“Our concern would be that that’s not happening for everyone – particularly people who’ve got more complex needs – I'm thinking particularly people who have got substance misuse issues.”

Ms Watson has stressed that large numbers of vulnerable people, particularly women, being brought together in hotels without adequate support is a “dangerous” situation.

She said: “We’re certainly also aware of some women in hotels who have had a background in sexual abuse or a background in domestic abuse and what we see is a system struggling to cope, to put enough support in place that we avoid a situation where in effect, we’re bringing together in these hotels a large number of people who have very significant vulnerabilities and that feels to us dangerous in the context of not then having significant support, not sufficient accommodation to move people onto.

HeraldScotland: Concerns have been raised about a lack of permanent shelter for rough sleepersConcerns have been raised about a lack of permanent shelter for rough sleepers

“Particularly in our two largest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, we’ve still got literally hundreds of people being housed in hotels and we’re really struggling to see the flow of accommodation to take them out of those hotels and give them permanent accommodation.”

Ms Watson has also highlighted what could happen to the rough sleepers, currently being sheltered in hotels, as the pandemic comes to an end.

She said: “If we can’t accommodate people just now, there’s a danger we just see a dramatic spike in rough sleeping when the emergency protections and the investment that makes that possible if that’s removed.”

Scottish Women’s Aid has warned that the leading cause of women’s homelessness in Scotland before the pandemic, was domestic abuse.

The support network has warned that as legal and social services have been scaled back, “challenges in escaping abusive partners have been further exacerbated”.

A spokeswoman added: “Our local Women’s Aid services have worked hard to ensure they could continue providing vital refuge accommodation throughout the pandemic and we have published guidance for registered social landlords encouraging them to safely continue with housing allocations throughout the pandemic, prioritising the needs and safety of survivors of abuse.

“But longer term, systemic change is needed to improve housing outcomes for women and children experiencing domestic abuse.”

Ms Watson has stressed that even before the pandemic, there was “tremendous pressure” on Scotland's homelessness systems.

She said: “We’re very concerned we’ve now got over 14,000 households effectively trapped in temporary accommodation – that's increased by 22% during the pandemic.

READ MORE: Highest ever number of children in temporary accommodation as homelessness on the rise

“Even before the pandemic, the figure was already at a record high.”

Ms Watson added: “We’ve got, as a central pillar of the Scottish Government’s agenda on ending homelessness, rapid rehousing. In effect, rapid rehousing is still stuck on the starting blocks because we cannot get the supply issue sorted – we still cannot get the flow of lets to homeless households.

“Until that’s tackled, the policy agenda in its broadest terms doesn’t move forward and then we don’t deal with the additional pressures that have come through the pandemic.”

In Edinburgh, it is thought there is now less than 10 people sleeping on the streets due to the temporary use of hotels..

The city council’s housing, homelessness and fair work convener, Kate Campbell, said this was “almost unheard of in a capital city”.

She added: “We know who they are, and we have a plan for engagement, weekly meetings and outreach to try to support them into accommodation.

“We’re putting in place plans to support people into more suitable accommodation and have visiting support to make sure people are getting practical help and advice to meet their needs.”

But Ms Campbell warned “we can’t get away from the enormous pressure on housing” in Edinburgh, with the city having around 14% of its stock available for social housing compared with a national average of around 23. She has written to Housing Minister Kevin Stewart to make the case for £400 million to invest in affordable homes over the next five years.

HeraldScotland: Housing Minister Kevin StewartHousing Minister Kevin Stewart

Mr Stewart said: “Temporary accommodation can offer an important emergency safety net for anyone who finds themselves homeless, but it should be a purely temporary measure. That is why we are investing over £30 million to support councils prioritise settled accommodation for all. We have extended the use of temporary accommodation to keep people safe from coronavirus.

“Scotland has led the way in the delivery of social and affordable housing across the UK with almost 97,000 affordable homes since 2007, nearly 67,000 of which were for social rent.

“We are committed to continuing to support the delivery of more social and affordable homes by investing more than £3.44 billion over the next five years to deliver more social and affordable homes.”