Shared homes for homeless people could save West Lothian council £900,000

West Lothian Council has approved plans to buy back 30 homes from the old council, which will be converted to provide a roof over the heads of up to 60 homeless young people.

The Shared Spaces program will be used to provide temporary accommodation for local youth in need of emergency housing.

This could potentially save the council almost £900,000 which is currently being spent on B&B payments.

The council has a legal obligation to provide temporary accommodation to homeless applicants who require assistance with housing.

It continues to experience a high demand for assistance from people who are homeless and in need of temporary accommodation. Similar pressures are being felt across Scotland as demand for homeless services increases.

At the end of September, there were 9,762 applications in West Lothian with over 850 homeless applications.

There are currently 1,260 people housed in temporary accommodation and 146 people in guesthouses. About 32% of all temporary accommodation residents are under 18 years old.

In a report to the council’s executive, Sarah Kelly, the interim housing needs manager, outlined plans to buy back 30 two-bedroom houses from the old council to convert them into temporary two-person sharing spaces.

The council estimate the project will cost £3.75 million, which includes buying the houses, repair costs and furniture.

The houses can be converted back into ordinary social housing if necessary at a later date.

The council estimates it will reduce bed and breakfast costs by almost £900,000 each year, which can then be invested in local social housing in the future.

SNP deputy group leader Robert de Bold gave cautious support to the plan and asked for guarantees that shared accommodation was single-sex and supported.

Housing officials ensured that staff support similar to that already offered in shared spaces and at the Blackburn homeless unit would be in place.

“I have reservations and would like follow-up reports to come back to the relevant PDSP within six months,” Bold’s adviser said.

Deputy Chief Executive Graeme Struthers assured the program would be monitored and reports would be referred to the relevant committees.

Labour’s Andrew McGuire said: ‘I would support anything that stops people staying in bed and breakfasts and keeps a roof over their heads.’

Community Services Executive Adviser George Paul added: ‘There is a clear need for action to tackle homelessness in West Lothian and this is a positive step forward in helping local people to a time when they desperately need it.

“To reduce the number of people in guest rooms, a number of actions are in place to provide suitable temporary accommodation, including new housing dedicated to young people and shared spaces for isolated homeless applicants.

“Single homeless applicants make up 71% of all homeless applicants in West Lothian, and homesharing can often be a more suitable placement for young people as it provides peer support which reduces the social isolation often felt by young homeless people, while our agents have an opportunity to help develop their skills to move into fixed accommodation and maintain a successful long-term tenancy.

“The council already has shared accommodation at Blackburn Homeless Unit which is working well and we are pleased to be able to move forward with our plans to provide more accommodation for local people.”

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