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Cabinet Blog – Shelter is a Human Right

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Shelter is a human right, and it’s one that fewer and fewer are able to attain in the modern age, with young people in this generation being the first to be worse off than their parents. 

Youth homelessness is on the rise, and a pragmatic solution is needed to combat this – the housing first policy guarantees housing for those most vulnerable, and provides a sustainable and stable environment. Here’s the speech!

Good Afternoon everyone, thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak with you today.

My name is Josh Kennedy. I am the MSYP for Renfrewshire North and West and SYP’s Vice Chair.

Scotland is leading the world in listening to its young people and this gathering today highlights that.

Housing is a human right and by granting it we can give everyone the opportunity to achieve their full potential.

When laying our cards out on the table – I think we can all agree that poverty and homelessness needs to end, and that its very existence is a failure of society.  

When discussing poverty and homelessness in detail though the issue often becomes taboo.

This is especially the case for young people, as we live in a world of social media where everyone has to look good and seem successful – all the time.

For too many young people, the world they see from influencers on Instagram is very far from reality.

Anyone at some point in their life can find themselves without a place to stay, or call a home, and for too many this has become a harsh reality.

When this does happen to young people, they’re often trapped with no escape.

In fact, 57% of those who filled an application to Scottish council’s under statutory homelessness legislation were under 35, a staggering figure.

On top of this, Shelter Scotland has reported that around 15 in a thousand young people aged under 25 are registered as homeless- that is around 50% higher than the 25 to 29 age bracket.

Therefore it’s more than clear that we need action.

When looking at this issue and the best way to solve it, I started talks with Social Bite, an organisation which aims to eradicate poverty and help lift people out of it.

They have been working towards Scotland fully adopting the ‘Housing First’ Policy.

Which, for the benefit of those in the room who haven’t heard of this before, is a basic principle of guaranteeing a house for everyone that needs it, regardless of the other issues that may be going on in their lives.

The idea being that once someone has a stable place of shelter, somewhere that they can call their home, that then they can begin to work on the external things which would have previously prevented them from making this step- like drugs or alcohol misuse.

Rather than making extremely vulnerable people, often with complex needs, sleep rough or in unsupported places such as hostels or B&Bs, Housing First would give people a safe home of their own and then puts in a place a support structure to help them sustain their tenancy, re-integrate into society; and ultimately thrive.

Housing First is a truly transformative programme that provides a human-centred, kind and compassionate response to the systemic issue of homelessness.

I thought it was a great idea, and, when we debated it at a recent SYP Sitting, MSYPs from across Scotland agreed.

Housing first carries massive benefits for those who choose to use it.

In Colorado, a 2006 cost study documented a significant reduction in the use and cost of emergency services by program participants as well as increased health status, after the policy was introduced.

Emergency room visits and costs were reduced by an average of 34.3 percent. Hospital inpatient costs were reduced by 66 percent. Detox visits were reduced by 82 percent. Incarceration days and costs were reduced by 76 percent. 77 percent of those entering the program continued to be housed in the program after two years.

This policy has been tried all over the world, Canada, the USA, Finland and the list goes on. All showing massive benefits.

This alone obviously won’t be the answer to what is a deeply complex issue.

But providing that basic level of support, to everyone regardless of circumstance is a level of humanity that must be guaranteed to all in Scotland.

Young people are clearly being disproportionately affected by this issue and it’s obvious that something has to be done.

Scotland can lead the world on this issue, with real credible action.

I urge the Cabinet to review the Housing First policy and establish if it would be viable to introduce in Scotland.

Not only to help young people across the country, but to end the societal Failure that is homelessness.

Thank you.

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