New figures have revealed homelessness is at one of its highest levels in Aberdeen over the past decade.
Although the number of people applying for accommodation in the city is down by almost 5%, from 1,709 in 2017-18 to 1,629 in 2018-19, it is at its third highest level since 2010-11.
The council dealt with 3,406 applications from city residents in urgent need of a home in 2010 but the number of applications had been reducing overall since then.
Meanwhile, in Aberdeenshire, homelessness has increased by 6% from 1,085 applications in 2017-18 to 1,152 in 2018-19, according to the official figures released by Scotland’s chief statistician.
Bosses within the homeless sector have said there is “still room for improvement” with levels of people in urgent need of somewhere to live remaining “far too high” in the city.
Homeless applications have also risen by 5% in Moray but have reduced in Angus by 8%.
Mark Thomson, Shelter Scotland Aberdeen community hub manager, said: “It’s good news that things haven’t got worse in the north-east but it’s not got any better either.
“There is still room for improvement as homelessness levels remain far too high.
“Our team has been working flat out to help hundreds of people keep their home this year and we will continue to work closely with Aberdeen City Council to make sure people have all the support they need when facing homelessness.”
However, the number of households living in temporary accommodation has fallen across all four local authority areas in the north-east.
In Aberdeen, the number of households living in temporary accommodation fell by 8%, down from 426 in March 2019 to 394 in March 2018.
And in Aberdeenshire, those living in temporary accommodation dropped by 5% from 393 to 373, while a 16% drop was experienced in both Angus and Moray.
While the numbers living in temporary homes has dropped, the numbers of those forced to live in these types of properties while pregnant, or with children, is up by 18% in Aberdeen in 2018-19 compared to the year before.
Shelter Scotland said due to a “chronic shortage” of suitable homes for social rent, thousands are becoming trapped in unsuitable accommodation – often for years at a time.
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Last year the Scottish Government launched a plan to adopt a rapid rehousing programme for people who enter the homelessness system, but the charity maintains this will do little to address the reasons people become in urgent need of somewhere to live in the first place.
The five-year scheme, which has been adopted by councils across Scotland, aims to fulfil the Scottish Government target to eradicate homelessness by 2024.
Aberdeen City Council’s ambitious plan commits the council to reducing the amount of time a person is homeless from an average of 164 days down to 50 over the next five years.
Across Scotland, councils received 36,465 applications for homelessness assistance in the most recent financial year, 3% higher than in 2017-18.
Co-leader of Aberdeen City Council Jenny Laing said: “While it is encouraging to see the number of people making homeless applications in Aberdeen is down from 1,709 in 2017-18 to 1,629 in 2018-19, these figures demonstrate the impact continuing SNP austerity is having on people’s lives and more must be done by the Scottish Government to help local authorities tackle homelessness.”
Mike Burns, chief executive of Aberdeen Cyrenians, said: “It is positive to see that there has been an improvement in the numbers of individuals presenting as homeless in Aberdeen City compared to last year, however, it is clear there is still work to be done to reduce these figures significantly.
“The Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan (RRTP) will play a vital role in that.”
Housing Minister Kevin Stewart, who is also MSP for Aberdeen Central, said it was unacceptable for anyone to find themselves without a home in a country with some of the strongest rights in the world.
He said: “Our Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan sets out a range of measures that support our ambition to eradicate rough sleeping, transform temporary accommodation and end homelessness altogether.
“We are tackling this challenge in the context of the UK Government’s welfare cuts which we know are causing major hardship and housing insecurity for many people – a growing number of studies show these cuts are causing homelessness.
“We are spending more than £125 million this year to mitigate against the worst impacts and protect those on low incomes, including £62m in discretionary housing payments.
“We want to make sure anyone facing homelessness is supported into permanent, settled accommodation that meets their needs as quickly as possible. I’m pleased the latest statistics show a significant increase in households securing settled accommodation, but we have further to go.
“There are multiple, complex reasons why people sleep rough – many have experienced drug or alcohol addiction problems or suffer from poor mental health and require specialist support, in addition to a home, to tackle these issues.”
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman said they have been proactively working on reducing the use of unsuitable temporary accommodation and the time spent in all other types.
He said: “This has formed part of the council work on a five-year rapid rehousing transition plan which was submitted to the Scottish Government on the 31st December 2018.
“This will result in working proactively to ensure a settled outcome for homeless applicants as quickly as possible, therefore reducing the use and time spent in temporary accommodation.”
A Moray Council spokeswoman said a rehousing transition plan had been adopted by the local authority to help people find permanent places to live.
She said: “It will allow them quicker access to mainstream, furnished housing within a community; therefore we expect to see a reduction in the number of households in temporary accommodation over the next five years.
“This is subject to a Scottish Government funding bid – Ending Homelessness Forever.”
And an Angus Council spokesman said the local authority worked with other organisations to help prevent crisis situations happening due to the “complex range of financial, health and relationship factors” underlying in many individual cases.
He said: “We are pleased to see an improved outlook for homelessness cases in Angus.
“While the numbers coming through do fluctuate, we are hopeful that we can sustain this positive trend over the longer term as our approach to homeless prevention bears fruit.”