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Blog: Removing stigma from homelessness

At Turning Point Scotland, we work with people on their recovery journey from a period of housing instability or homelessness. We do this with the belief people should be connected through citizenship to the same rights, roles, responsibilities, relationships and resources, with meaningful lives as valued community members.

However, our belief systems are often challenged by constant external pressures. The infrastructures, such as affordable suitable housing, are lacking and government policies and stigmatisation restrict people’s abilities to get back on track or minimise harms.

It is impossible for many of those we support, who are living in temporary or inadequate accommodation, to feel they have any rights as they wait for a safe place to call ‘home’. It is easy for them to feel isolated and disconnected from communities.

A multitude of reasons lead people to finding themselves homeless. Financial pressures of paying bills, fuel, food, as people manage the cost of living crisis sees a continued rise in people presenting to councils as homeless. Unforeseen money troubles, whether a low wage or insufficient benefits, regardless, the outcome can be the same.

Other factors include fleeing violence; escaping war; relationship breakdowns; the impact of being stigmatised as a LGBTQI+ person, physical health or compromised mental wellbeing, use of alcohol and other drugs excessively, which perhaps began as a coping mechanism from other factors such as the impact of trauma or adverse childhood experiences. Often people in homelessness services will have experienced one or more of these.

We need to change things with prevention. To see things with a wider lens not solely focussing on an individual and laying blame but instead looking beyond to determine where a difference could have been made. Where we as a people or organisation could have seen the warning signs and spoken up, stepped in.

We need to change perceptions of what homelessness is. Remove stigma and change our language, educate ourselves by opening conversations without traumatising people, to understand what happened and how it could be prevented. Homelessness is not solely those sleeping in doorways; they are people who have fallen through cracks within ‘our’ systems. Not visible, but equally homeless are those who seek refuge sleeping on sofas, floors, poor accommodation; in B&B accommodation or temporary properties waiting on a long-term solution.

We know adverse childhood experiences can result in trauma induced behaviours, yet we have 8500 children in temporary accommodation at this time in Scotland. While they may have a safe space, this year parents are struggling to find money for heating or food.

Evidence shows people who experience homelessness have a lessened life expectancy. For a long time, we have framed homelessness as the failure of an individual. We now realise we are all interdependent, put simply, people need people, and that kindness and compassion is key for all of us.

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