Jordan Hunter and Andrew Quinn
Reporter and Deputy Editor
A letter from their solicitors has been delivered to the City Council
Housing and homelessness charity Shelter is raising money to file a lawsuit on behalf of the homeless population of Glasgow. The charity has set up a gofundme page in order to raise the £15,000 they need to take the council to court. Shelter allege that Glasgow City Council failed to house or shelter individuals on 3,365 occasions last year, which they claim is unlawful. Glasgow City Council have rebutted this claim, stating that these statistics are misleading and that the situation has been misrepresented.
Shelter claim homeless people are being turned away from temporary housing and that this has led to 47 deaths in the last year. They accuse the Council of “gatekeeping” by “preventing people from accessing the homeless services to which they are entitled by law”. Shelter organised a protest in the summer of last year, getting the Council to take up the issue and promise concessions. They believe in the last year the situation has only deteriorated further. Due to this, the charity has decided to take legal action and has sent several former homeless people to deliver a paper from Shelter’s solicitor to the City Council. One of those men was Tam Foyle, who stated, “It is a scandal that Glasgow City Council has been able to get away with this for so long, but the harsh reality is that they think nobody will do anything about it.”
Shelter’s Director, Graeme Brown, had this to say about the event: “Rights are not a privilege - they are a legal entitlement enforceable by law and GCC should not be allowed to disregard the law with impunity. If action is not taken to end this practice and public bodies can pick and choose which laws they wish to follow, then it will undermine citizens’ rights across the board.”
Glasgow City Council claim that Shelter have used facts and figures incorrectly in an attempt to oversimplify a very complex situation. A Glasgow City Council spokesman stated: “It is untrue to state that 47 people died on the streets of Glasgow in a year, and Shelter know it.”
They went on to say the figures were being over reported, even by the evidence Shelter cites.
They also criticized the group as being litigious and counter-productive: “Rather than raising money for court action – it would be helpful if Shelter worked constructively with us, to tackle the pressing issue of homelessness. We share a common aim and threats of legal action are an unhelpful distraction to this crucial work.” They do recognize the problem of homelessness in Glasgow and confirm they’re working with the Scottish Housing Regulator and partners to address the issue. Additionally, they said they would work with the Scottish Government to ensure numbers in the future were more uniformly and accurately recorded.
Talking about the likelihood of the suit going forward, the Director of Shelter stated: “I hope that the City Council will respond positively to our lawyer’s letter today and avoid the need for court, but there may be little choice. If the judicial review goes ahead then Shelter Scotland will ask the Court to declare that Glasgow City Council are acting unlawfully and that they should prepare and submit to Scottish Ministers a revised homelessness strategy that puts a plan in place to guarantee temporary accommodation for every homeless person that needs it.”