The Scottish Government has published statistics on the 'Operation of the Homeless Persons Legislation in Scotland 2008-2009.
Some of the papers have reported on them, but they have basically looked at the overall progress as we move toward the target of providing homes for the unintentionally homeless by 2012.
I haven't seen any reporting on one table contained in the report however. Table 7 shows the number of 'homeless household by type of support need identified'.It makes for fairly alarming reading.
Of the 41,670 households who are, or potentially, homeless, a staggering 13,733 households were identified as having one or more support needs.
Over 10% of the total number lacked basing housing management/independent living skills, and 10% had a drug or alcohol dependancy. What this means, is that 10% of applicants can be given a home, but have no idea how to manage it. This can mean they don't know how to pay bills or work the washing machine. Eventually, this can lead to an inability to sustain their tenancy.
The same can often be said of those with drug or alcohol dependencies.
Often, the above issues manifest themselves in prolonged bouts of anti-social behaviour and chaotic lifestyles. Which means the immediate community suffers too. There is help and support available to those who find themselves with problems, and rightly so, but they are in no way obliged to accept it, so find themselves in a vicious behavioural cycle that is detrimental to them and their neighbours.
It's an issue that few politicians or professionals seem willing to acknowledge. There seems to be a feeling that it is politically incorrect to raise it, but we can't stick our heads in the sand forever.
The Scottish Government has stated it will publish a Housing Bill this term. Although there is quite a lot in it, the majority of the scrutiny it has received is mostly concerned with ending 'right to buy'. Personally, I would argue that this bill would be the ideal opportunity to address the issues above (and more besides).
The unfortunate thing is, any Government who sought to tackle this via legislation, may find themselves in a difficult position at the hands of opportunistic opposition MSP's who would wish to make political capital out of what could be portrayed as draconian measures. Friends in the Civil Service have suggested that this is a cause for concern.
Yet, there is no question that every MSP or Councillor from every party (or none) has been approached by constituents who are suffering at the hands of anti-social neighbours. It certainly makes up the vast majority of my caseload, and it is a similar situation among my colleagues.
The Housing Bill should not be a wasted opportunity, and it certainly shouldn't be a political football either. An acknowledgement from all sides of the scale of the problem, and a willingness to constructively work together to address it, would very much be a step in the right direction