By Shannon Steinkamp
The homeless population in Scotland, called rough sleepers, has been reduced over the years through hard work and activism, but the population has recently been on an upward trend. The country is dedicated to solving the problem.
Scotland had almost eliminated homelessness, but the population has increased due to cuts to the welfare and domestic security budget. There are now around 5,000 people who struggle with homelessness.
A restaurant, Social Bite, has vowed to help 600 people out of the homeless lifestyle over the next 18 months. The program also offers support for mental health issues and addiction, and it has been supported by celebrities like George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio.
The co-founder of Social Bite, Joshua Littlejohn, believes the program is vital in avoiding fatalities in the homeless population, and he says the program has “significant lessons for the rest of the UK.” Littlejohn believes it is vital for compassionate people to help those who are in unfortunate situations.
Littlejohn is doing his part in the battle against homelessness. From the founding of Social Bite in 2012, which has numerous former homeless people on its staff, Littlejohn has been an advocate and an activist for Housing First. Housing First places members of the homeless population in permanent homes, and then helps them deal with any other challenges they may face. The idea behind the program is that stable homes make stable lives.
Littlejohn says: “The system at the moment doesn’t make sense in terms of compassion for individuals, like that man who died, in the most acute housing need. Nor does it make sense economically because the status quo is very expensive, and all the international evidence shows that we save money by getting these individuals into mainstream tenancies.”
The inspiration for the organization came from similar outreaches in the United States and Finland. After seeing the outreaches’ success in other countries, the Westminster government has dedicated £28m for Housing First projects in West Midlands, Manchester, and Liverpool.
Several organizations and housing associates have pledged hundreds of properties to help those who are struggling to achieve permanent housing. Members of the homeless population will begin to be placed into homes this spring, and 33 homes will have new residents each month until September 2019.
A support package will be given to new residents, and the packages will be funded by Sleep in the Park. Sleep in the Park was the world’s largest sleepout, and the aim of participants was to draw attention to the plight of homeless people in the area.