Highlands & Islands MSP Emma Roddick has sponsored a Shelter Scotland event in this Scottish Parliament this week.
Attendees of the event, titled Social Housing as the Foundation of Social Justice, heard from speakers Alison Watson, Director of Shelter Scotland, SallyAnn Kelly OBE, CEO of Aberlour, and Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government.
Ms Roddick opened the reception, her speech highlighting housing issues in the Highlands and Islands as well as her own lived experience with homelessness.
“There are undoubtedly challenges that we have to overcome in housing across Scotland. While it isn’t the only answer, building more homes for social rent is a key part of that and something that this current Scottish Government has a strong commitment to.
“Every day, I hear of another young person struggling to find a place to live in their community in the Highlands and Islands, where they want to stay.
“The issue of hidden homelessness is huge in my region, particularly in places like Skye, where so much stock has been lost to short-term lets and holiday homes. I’m, therefore, glad to see that Shelter’s action plan includes not only building but buying back homes.”
Ms Roddick went on to share her personal testimony, highlighting the struggles of homelessness:
“You lose so much when you’re homeless. You lose possessions, you lose security, you lose your sense of self. I remember applying for jobs with a care-of address – employers do not like that. Credit companies turn you away in a second, and I struggled to find a GP. You often simply cannot access social justice without a home.
“Scotland is the country which ended Right to Buy, the country which declared anyone unintentionally homeless was entitled to a home, and it will be the country that says nobody should be homeless in 21st-century Scotland.”
The Cabinet Secretary spoke at the event and outlined the actions the Scottish Government is taking to reduce homelessness, referencing the rent freeze and forthcoming Housing Bill. She also thanked Ms Roddick, saying “I’ve always been struck – and Emma’s done it again tonight – by her powerful personal testimony.”