Refugee homelessness in Glasgow

The Scottish Government has just published the latest national figures on homelessness. The trend appears to be downward, but there is a significant rise in families living in temporary homelessness accommodation – a problem highlighted earlier this year at the Shared Futures refugee housing seminar in Glasgow.

The UK-wide Home Office legacy review (of unresolved asylum applications) suddenly granted leave to remain to several hundred families in Glasgow over a very short period in late 2007/early 2008. This review obviously brought great joy and relief for the families, many of whom had been living in the city for several years awaiting a decision on their applications which seemed lost in the system.

But the review also brought extra pressures on local services as so many new refugees suddenly had their entitlement to Home Office housing and support terminated.

This led to a considerable blip in the temporary accommodation figures, as the city council became responsible for their housing. (Unfortunately, this was mis-reported in most of the media as Glasgow providing homelessness assistance to hundreds of ‘asylum seekers’ for the first time. They are not asylum seekers – they have been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK.)

For now, the families at least have a roof over their head, but what happens next may determine whether they decide to settle in the city or leave to look for housing elsewhere. Not having a secure home means you still have the insecurity of homelessness, as well as the poverty trap of a massive service charge on top of your rent – okay if you are on benefits, but impossible to pay out of low wages. The anecdotal evidence appears to be that, increasingly, refugees are leaving the city; having been forced from their home countries seeking sanctuary, they were dispersed’ to Glasgow by the Home Office, and now they are internally displaced again.

The Shared Futures Glasgow event in June 2008 was organised by Community InfoSource and Govan Housing Association’s Community Inclusion Co-ordinator. The seminar brought together housing providers, planners, funders, support agencies, refugee residents and community organisations for a ‘housing conversation’.

A Question Time panel included the Chief Executive of Scottish Refugee Council, the head of housing strategy at Glasgow Council, a representative of the Poverty Alliance and Karibu refugee community organisation, and the Director of one of Glasgow’s leading community-controlled housing associations.

The conversation revealed that the main problems facing refugees in Glasgow are the standard, cost and insecurity of temporary homeless accommodation, and of access to good information, advice and support.

The seminar heard from refugees who had been living in the temporary homeless limbo for years after grant of status, particularly those waiting for a larger family home. This was a worrying thought given the news that they had been recently joined by over 500 other families earlier in the year.

Also under discussion at the event was the role of community-based housing associations – a role apparently undermined by the latest funding review. The audience got involved in a lively debate, and also had the chance to hear positive stories from trainees on the Door Step project, a multi-media housing advice and training scheme.

For further information on the report, or the Door Step project, contact

Operation of the Homelessness Persons Legislation in Scotland: 2007-08:


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