Glasgow night shelter reports one service user dying every month

Published

Credit: Andrea Popa

Osama Abou-zeid
Writer

The report follows concerns over the use of street valium and the rise in deaths of homeless people in recent months

A report by the Evening Times has revealed that users of the Glasgow Winter Night Shelter suffer a death rate of one per month.

The Lodging House Mission organises the Night Shelter, a service which provides emergency accommodation to rough sleepers and the homeless during winter.

Gus Smeaton, manager of the Lodging House Mission, cited the increased use of drugs such as Street Valium among homeless people as a possible contributing factor towards the high death rate.

However, Smeaton made it clear that this was merely one part of a larger problem, stating that, “There is a lot of complex issues at play, including mental health problems that can often lead to people becoming homeless. It is why homelessness is so difficult to solve. You can’t just throw money at the problem and hope it goes away.”

Smeaton’s statement was delivered shortly after a woman living in a tent was found dead in Gallowgate on the morning of Thursday 17 January.

In October last year, figures from Glasgow City Council’s Critical Incident and Homeless Deaths group revealed that 47 people with open homelessness assessments died in Glasgow between October 2017 and October 2018. Additional deaths in supported accommodation and hostels around Glasgow have also been reported.

In response to the Evening Times’ report, James Kelly MSP brought up the issue in his question to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during a session of First Minister’s Questions on Wednesday 24 January, describing the death rate as “a shocking situation, which should concern Nicola Sturgeon not only as First Minister but as a Glasgow MSP.” Kelly asked: “What action will the Government take in its budget to properly fund homelessness services to put an end to the scandal of people dying on our streets?”

Sturgeon responded by expressing her shared concern over the homelessness issue and stated that, “In terms of action, James Kelly is aware of the work that we have been doing through the homelessness and rough sleeping taskforce, which has come up with a number of recommendations on tackling the issue.

“On the question about budgetary steps, we have established the £50 million tackling homelessness fund, which is about tackling the problem in a targeted and direct way. Some of the best experts in the field have been helping us to bring forward the recommendations.

“There is a determination on the part of Glasgow City Council and local authorities around the country, backed by the third sector and the Scottish Government, to get to a point at which we eradicate homelessness and rough sleeping. It has no place in any civilised society and, as First Minister, I will not rest on the issue until we get to that point.”