A team from A&DS is joining 9,000 others in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, on the 9th of December for the World’s largest ever sleepout to raise funds and awareness about homelessness. In the run up to the event we asked those taking part to outline what motivated them to sign up. Here Graham Ross, A&DS Board, tells his story:
The statistics are stark. According to Scottish Government figures there were over 28,000 people assessed as homeless in Scotland last year. There were over 10,000 households in temporary accommodation, including over 3,000 children. There are 34,000 empty homes in Scotland.
The most extreme and apparent manifestation of homelessness is rough sleeping. It is estimated that there are approximately 660 roofless folk sleeping rough in Scotland on any given night.
Rough sleeping is seriously bad for you. You’re at heightened risk of physical attack, theft and abuse. Your physical and mental health deteriorates dealing with harsh conditions, weather and the stresses of survival. I’m 43 years old – the estimated live expectancy of a rough sleeper.
Complex Array of Health and Social Issues
In my work as an architect and urban planner on the (Y)our City Centre project to regenerate Glasgow city centre I have been struck by the impact homelessness has. An apparent increased threat of physical attack has driven many rough sleepers from secluded locations out of sight into more visible streets and doorways to seek safety and surveillance. Figures would indicate that rough sleeping is on the increase as society grapples with continued austerity, a chronic lack of available housing and a complex array of health and social issues.
In speaking with countless Glaswegians in the course of the (Y)our City Centre project I’ve been heartened by the empathy and compassion folk have for the most vulnerable in our society, struggling in our midst. There’s an overwhelming desire to confront the issue and ensure nobody has to sleep rough in Scotland. As a chap says in one of the project films, “there are people sleeping on the streets in Glasgow. It shouldn’t be like that. This is the 21st Century; people shouldn’t be sleeping on the street!”. It is totally unacceptable that this situation persists in contemporary society. Everyone has the right to a home.
The recent announcements to continue to tackle homelessness, poverty and inequalities are welcome, and hopefully prove effective. Moreover we need to continue to tackle poor housing conditions and eradicate fuel poverty which currently affects 748,000 households in Scotland.
So in this context the Social Bite initiative to face in to Scotland’s persistent homelessness challenge is laudable and worthy of support. I’ve been inspired to join in their campaign to raise awareness and funds to meet the challenge. I have to admit apprehension and dread at the prospect of participating in the mass sleep out on a cold winter’s night in Edinburgh. This despite being secure in the knowledge that it is for one night only and with a comfortable home to return to the following day. I can hardly comprehend how tough the prospect of homelessness and rough sleeping must be.
So, as a gesture of support, I’ll be participating in this year’s Sleep in the Park. I also hope that the focus Architecture & Design Scotland has to champion the need for more, quality homes can help to ensure homelessness in Scotland is eradicated for good and we strive to have better housing for all.
Please consider supporting Graham and the A&DS team in reaching their fundraising target. You can make a donation here.