Winter is coming; what’s next for those with nowhere to go?

Samantha Byrne, a young Labour Party activist and law graduate, says nearly 30,000 households became homeless last year in one of the richest nations in the world – ours.


It’s easy for people to ignore the homeless. It’s easy for shoppers to focus their eyes on a point in the distance as they walk past and try their best to avoid looking at the ‘beggar’ below in a sleeping bag, with an old dirty coffee cup and a look of desperation on his or her face.

I must admit, now and again, I too have surrendered to the curse of doing what’s easy. I too have done the very thing that I just described. I remember one night I was rushing down a cold, deserted Glasgow street, worried I would miss my train, with a coffee in one hand and a bag of shopping in the other. I stopped to get my ticket, I overheard two men chatting. I thought the street was empty. Where had they come from? It turns out they were there all along. This was their home for the night. Under a canopy at Argyle Street Station. I was trespassing on their home and I never even realised they were there.

As I fiddled, looking for my ticket, the conversation beside me was not of the cold but how this was one of the men’s first nights on the street in a while. He had been going to the Winter Night Shelter. But his requests for accommodation had been knocked back. And it wasn’t ‘winter’ anymore. It was freezing; but it wasn’t ‘winter’. The shelter had shut up shop for the year and he didn’t know where else to go. The man beside him, clearly more accustomed to the Argyle Street nights, told him to get his head down tonight and then head to see a lawyer.

Having volunteered at one of the many law centres that help with homelessness, I can speak first hand of the excellent work that goes on inside and outside their doors. Solicitors work tirelessly to help the homeless. But the one thing problem that this man raised was a big one. He wasn’t from Glasgow. He was worried that help would be turned away because he didn’t come from a ‘G’ postcode. He had no local connection – the one of many things that are required before you will even be considered for accommodation in the area. He wasn’t in the ‘right’ catchment area.

Homelessness in Scotland is a real problem, and it is certainly not ‘fixed’. Scotland is one of the richest nations in the world, yet nearly 30,000 households became homeless last year and more than 65,000 households approached their local authority for help. This is a real problem, and particularly in Glasgow, where a massive 22% of calls to Shelter Scotland came from the inner city area alone. And with so many people who can afford to pay their rent or mortgage able to uproot and move to a new city without their links to the community being assessed beforehand, it seems strange that people living on the streets are being judged in this way.

The solution to the ‘postcode lottery’ is by no means simple; people already on the streets are, albeit wrongly, considered not to be members of any community. They will more than likely be rejected from any local authority to which they make an application. But with four people dying on the streets every single month in Glasgow alone, it’s time that this matter was taken more seriously.

The original local authority a person who is deemed to have no ties to any community makes an application to must help. They have an obligation but time and time again we see people stuck for a place to lay their head. And with a serious housing shortage in Scotland, it is, of course, hard for local authorities to house everyone. This type of prejudicial treatment will continue until the housing crisis is addressed by the Scottish Government.

Now, as I finally found my train ticket at the bottom of my bag, I realised something. Not once did any of these men ask for spare change. Not once did they look up at me and show me an empty, old dirty coffee cup begging for it to be filled. They never begged. They were far too busy helping each other out, trying to get through the night to see the light of the morning.

So rather than avoiding the so-called beggar on the street, we should be begging with them. Begging for a better way of tackling homelessness. Begging for nobody ever to be left out in the cold. Begging for change and begging for it to happen now.

Now that winter is coming we can only hope that, rather than the Winter Night Shelter, the two men are spending this years’ cold months under a proper roof, not a train station canopy.

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16 thoughts on “Winter is coming; what’s next for those with nowhere to go?

  1. And as long as people keep campaigning for the very parties that caused the abject poverty in Glasgow Samantha, these parties will keep turning their backs on the poor, and concentrate on keeping the kind of people who INVEST a lot of money into Political parties and campaigns happy, making sure the millionaires INVESTMENTS, get the returns they expected.

    Labour has been in control of the purse strings in Glasgow for as long as anyone alive can remember, yet Glasgow has seen poverty including child poverty at levels very few other cities in the UK have even got close to experiencing.
    We have saw a life expectancy in Glasgow that was lower than some middle eastern war zones.
    We have saw murder rates that were consistently higher than any other city in Europe.
    We have saw all kinds of social deprivation at record levels in Glasgow, for as long as anyone reading this article will have ever known, yet for most of this time the Labour Party was in power in both Holyrood, Westminster and always at the local council level.

    What happened? The Labour Mafia happened, with countless stories of corruption, nepotism, fraud, gangster connections, sectarianism, etc etc.

    You go on sitting in your nice office crying crocodile tears for the homeless and the poverty stricken Samantha. I hope it makes you feel better.

  2. Labour in Scotlands solution to this and every other problem the country faces is to ensure we keep getting Tory Governments we never vote for.
    First of all by allowing the English electorate to elect our Government at UK level and secondly to cater its policies ideologies and principles for the English electorate because of this very fact.
    As a result even when we get Labour Government we get the same policies same ideals and same principles.
    I’m not sure how any of Scotlands problems are to be solved by giving the means and the authority to fix them to people who couldn’t care less if they were fixed or not.
    Why would anybody who has priorities outside of Scotland make more of an effort to deal with Scotlands problems than somebody who has the means and authority in Scotland with only having Scotland as its priority.
    So while the SNP exceed their own targets on new affordable house building Labour in Scotland managed to build 6 during their term in office.
    They did this while returning 1.5 billion in underspent budget back to Westminster.
    So if you do have a real concern for affordable housing in Scotland then clearly you’ve joined the wrong party.
    The hallmarks of Labour activists today seems to be an overabundance of self imposed delusion and wilful ignorance of reality.

    Just as a matter of interest Samantha have you ever taken on any Pro Bono cases? I’m sure you’re more than aware of the massive unbalanced justice system in the UK where justice only comes to those with a means to pay for it.
    Legal Aid in the UK is a joke. Its a bigger con than the Benefits system. Its immensely difficult to qualify for and even more difficult to be granted enough aid to satisfy your lawyer.
    So if you want to campaign for something how about campaigning to have Legal Aid made more accessible and less draconian in its selection process.
    Something that actually allows justice to those who cant afford extortionate Legal fees.

  3. Guys you both did a typically Labour bad comment.
    Is Samantha to be attacked for raising this subject . Why don’t you both get in touch with your local Councillor MSP MP of whatever colour and ask them what they are doing .
    Then come on here say Friday with the result .But no political party has the answer.

    1. No its just another case of highlighting the level of self delusion labour activists have to employ in order to pretend they have a moral and justifiable reason for supporting Labour in Scotland.
      Another I am Labour because ……. horseshit.
      Labour have the answers to nothing except how to advance the personal ambition of the Labour party and its members and in Scotland that’s means to the detriment of the country and the people living and working within it.
      Labour have a long record in Government it is an abysmal record yet all we here from Labour activists is rhetoric about what Labour intend to do if only given another chance.
      The UK is an immoral criminally run institution that causes great harm deprivation violence social division wealth division and caters to the patronised and privileged by default.
      Labour has become just another cog in the Institution another link in the chain to the extent that it doesn’t actually matter which of the main parties are in power its just more of the same.

    2. Yes, Good point David, but since Labour made sure (Smith Commission) Scotland did not get any real powers (except over air-guns) then asking my MP/MSP what they will do about the myriad of issues that lead to homelessness, is like asking a nurse what she’s going to do about a blind patient, who wont read the Daily Record.

      We need the powers to make the changes.

      Labour has did everything in its power to make sure the decisions about social care in Scotland has continued to be made in the increasingly Neoliberal Westminster.

      You say no political party has the answer, well I think there’s more than enough evidence to show that the main decision makers at Westminster, have had an ideology since Thatchers days, that doesn’t want an answer to these problems.

      The SNP has tried to find answers, and Labour has joined the Tories, to fight against the SNP efforts, time and time again.

      If you support Labour, you are part of this problem.

  4. Scotland is a rich country ???

    Well that’s a first from a labour activist , normally it’s Scotland is too poor, too wee, too stupid.

    But the problems with homelessness are serious and to say it’s Scotlands fault because we are a rich country and yet not to mention more than two thirds of our economy are under the control of Tory controled Westminster and we are still getting most of our money given to us as a grant.

    Well it’s a bittie dumb , to say the least.

    Just think with full control of our resources what Scotland could do to rid ourselves of the scourge of homelessness.

    Another benefit of independence.

  5. One thought in reply to the article.

    I support the right for the homeless to be housed – but not necessarily in the town or city of their choosing. The right to be housed by their local authority should be just that – a right which they can exercise in their own local authority area only, and not in whatever local authority area they happen to decide they wish to live.

    Thousands of commuters who work in Edinburgh travel each day from where they live in Fife, the Borders and even further afield, because they can’t afford to buy or rent in Edinburgh. The idea that homeless people from Fife, the Borders or further field should have a greater right to housing in Edinburgh than these others who also wish to move to Edinburgh seems quite bizarre.

  6. Homelessness is a complex issue and not conducive to simple solutions. One way train tickets a la Bournemouth are not the answer, nor is blaming the Labour Party like some of the posters above. Local authorities and the third sector need more resources to deal with this issue but it shouldn’t be a party political football.

    1. It wouldn’t be a party political football if Labour activists stopped kicking it around a political stadium trying to score political goals.
      Every issue is a complex issue but 1 factor remains constant everywhere for everything relevant to good Government and that is to allow a Government full access to its full potential of resources and revenues relative to denying them access to over 2/3rds of them.
      Scotland has more than enough resources and access to revenues to fully support its own public services and still have funding left over but as long as Labour supports the constitutional dogma that allows Westminster regimes to use Scottish resources and revenues to follow ideological dogma detrimental to funding Scottish public services then Labour hasn’t a leg to stand on when it comes to complaining about any deficiencies in available powers levers and funding.
      Labour in Scotland is a huge part of the problem and will continue to be until it stops thinking of itself in terms of UK patronised and privileged establishment elites. Until Scottish members cease with their self serving loyalty to the party above their duty to their own country.

  7. Thanks for your comments .I only thought that Samantha was being attacked for saying what she saw that day.
    No party has the absolute answer to this
    For me its another subject like the NHS that needs to be taken out of political control.
    But well done Samantha and don’t be put off just ignore us lot.
    We like a good moan

    1. Such naivety! How can the NHS or anything else be taken out of political control???? Politics is about power – who wields it and what they do with it. The NHS is an inherently political entity, as is the solution (whatever it is, or the decision to do nothing about it) to homelessness.

  8. Thanks for your comment Gordon.
    NHS is getting record amounts of money spent on it. I know from my own experience a packed doctors waiting room
    Reception staff being threatened because some one could not see a GP.
    I saw that incident 2 weeks before someone else was arrested and appeared in court 2 weeks before the same thing.
    There is a chemist in the same building as my surgery .The chemist at least twice when I was there has had to lock the connecting door from the surgery area because the chemist was packed and could not take any more patients .
    I was sent to the hospital for a non urgent x ray .
    X ray was running 40 mins behind patients were on beds in a corridor waiting to be x rayed they had been brought down from the wards
    The chap sitting next to me had been brought over from another hospital for x ray and was waiting for patient transport to take him back
    The NHS staff as always brilliant working their socks of for us in difficult conditions .Not of their making
    And cheery I have always said that is very important .No matter what is happening in their lives Their magnificent attitude when we are sitting there feeling sorry for ourselves they work miracles .
    But the system for me is at breaking point .And before it breaks something has to be done
    Before it can be fixed politicians of all parties need to realize what is wrong
    That’s why I thought put it in the hands of people who know what they are doing.
    You are right Gordon politics is about power
    I don’t have the intelligence to know what to do
    But I do know kicking the NHS about like a football wont do and cannot be allowed to continue
    We are away past the time when we can allow this to continue

  9. I should have said my surgery uses the triage system .If you need a doctor phone the surgery reception will ask for a brief outline of your problem and make arrangements for a doctor to phone you back
    When the doctor phones back you will be asked whats wrong and only at that point will the doctor decide if you need an appointment
    You might be offered an appointment with another healthcare professional like the advanced nurse .
    If you visit the surgery you will also be told the doctor will phone you .That’s what lead to the incidents of people taking it out on reception

    1. So what happened to medical in confidence? Since when has it been confidential to talk about medical conditions with receptionists?
      A Doctor cant determine what is wrong with somebody over the phone or the seriousness of a complaint by listening to a list of symptoms. A good Doctor can tell more by looking at a patient than he can by listening to them. Far more by cursory examination.
      What you’ve described is a method to cop out of a work load.
      I phone my medical centre and ask for an appointment which I get without giving any personal medical details away.
      I’m fortunate to have a very good Doctor who rarely keeps me waiting for an appointment longer than 2 to 3 days. My previous Doctor would rarely give me an appointment within the same month.

  10. 1 think for the first time we agree .
    phone in the doctor phones back and I get seen same day .The problem apparently was staff were turning up for work and were being met at the door with a lot of people with no appointments.
    Non urgent appointments can take up to 3 weeks in my surgery
    If you turn up looking for a test result for example. You to go home and phone in because of confidentiality .
    I cannot fault the treatment I have received from the NHS

  11. Something else I saw the Independent carried a report that the following councils have given rough sleepers 1 way rail tickets
    The councils are Manchester City Council Bournemouth Bristol City Council and Exeter City Council .
    The councils say the aim is to let rough sleepers relocate to areas where they have family and friends.
    Homeless Link an umbrella group for charities working with rough sleepers say one way train tickets are not the answer .
    Link say it only moves rough sleepers from one local authority area to another

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