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Shelter Scotland launches court action against Glasgow City Council over failure to help homeless people

Glasgow from Queens Park - Image credit: John Lindie/CC BY 2.0

Shelter Scotland launches court action against Glasgow City Council over failure to help homeless people

Shelter Scotland has today launched legal action against Glasgow City Council over its “unlawful” practice of denying homeless people their right to temporary accommodation, which it says has left many sleeping rough or sofa surfing.

The housing and homelessness charity is seeking a judicial review in the Court of Session – the first time the charity has taken such action against an entire local authority.

Shelter says the action follows “repeated engagement” with councillors and officials on Glasgow City Council over several years to raise concerns about “gatekeeping” and “systemic failures” within the city’s homelessness services that are preventing people accessing the services they are entitled to.

While a protest in July 2018 led to promises of improvements, the most recent statistics, published in July 2019, showed that over the previous twelve months the situation has got worse not better, with people forced back on the streets 3,365 times compared to 3,025 occasions the previous year, the charity said.

Shelter warned the council in a letter on 19 August 2019 that it would take legal action unless the local authority responded appropriately by 30 September.

Since then, the charity says it has been contacted by dozens more homeless people who have been denied their rights to temporary accommodation by Glasgow City Council.

Shelter is asking the court to rule that Glasgow City Council is acting unlawfully and that it should submit a revised homelessness strategy to the Scottish Government that puts a plan in place to guarantee temporary accommodation for every homeless person that needs it.

The legal action is being funded by a crowdfunding campaign, which has raised more than £15,000 so far.

Director of Shelter Scotland Graeme Brown said: “We are not taking this action lightly. We exist to fight for people’s rights to a decent home and to stop homelessness happening.

“By taking legal action we are trying to stop Glasgow City Council denying hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of people their right to a roof over their head.

“Rights are not a privilege - they are a legal entitlement enforceable by law and the council should not be allowed to disregard the law with impunity.

“We believe that if action isn’t taken now to stop this practice – and public bodies are left to pick and choose which laws they wish to follow – then it will undermine citizens’ rights across the board.

“The facts are clear: Glasgow City Council is breaking the law; homeless people are being forced onto the streets; officials are unable or unwilling to tackle the problem; and the numbers are getting worse not better.

“So, we are taking them to court to put a stop to this unlawful practice once and for all.”

Responding to the action by Shelter Scotland, a Glasgow City Council spokesman told Holyrood: “Glasgow faces significant – and in a Scottish context, perhaps unique – pressures on our homelessness accommodation, and we continue to work with the Scottish Housing Regulator and partners in the housing and third sectors to help those facing homelessness and the threat of homelessness. 

“We share a common aim with Shelter and, rather than focusing on court action, we would hope it could work together with the council and its partners to ensure that these challenges are met.”

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