Scotland’s Homelessness Explodes, Surpassing Pre-Pandemic Levels

homelessness in Scotland

Scotland’s homelessness crisis has reached unprecedented levels, with a record high of 28,944 new cases reported. The surge disproportionately affects families with children, signaling a grim outlook for future generations if action isn’t taken promptly.

Rises in homelessness across the UK are a very unsettling trend. The 11% increase in homelessness in England over three months, for example, has sparked heated debates about the cost of living and, perhaps more importantly, the communal toll of hundreds of thousands of people winding up with nowhere to live at all.

As haunting as those figures seem, it is not just England, the home of the royal British monarch, where homeless people sleep at the feet of castle staircases, that is struggling with a surge in homelessness. With its stretching views and stunning structures, Scotland is also headed for the hills of a homeless crisis.

Scotland’s Homelessness Quietly Reached a Record High

Homelessness in Scotland peaked at the highest level in recorded history in late 2022. It was at this point that approximately 28,944 new homeless cases were opened.

Furthermore, the situation disproportionately affects families with young children, a fact that many academics tie to a sharp increase in regional child poverty. At this rate, some experts predict we could see the Scottish homeless crisis come to a head as early as 2026.

Assessing the situation has been tricky, but a comprehensive public bulletin features some grim details. Below, you will find a brief overview of those statistics.

Highlights: A Glimpse into Scotland’s Historic Rate of Homelessness

Key findings from the latest analysis of Scottish homelessness denote:

  • A startling surge in homeless applications
  • Increases in homelessness that surpass pre-pandemic numbers
  • Unprecedented rises in family homelessness and child poverty
  • A proven need for more affordable housing
  • More open applications than ever before  
  • A rise in rough sleepers as even temporary accommodations have become scarce 
  • Fewer cases of homelessness closed or reaching a resolution

* Please Note: the number of households with children residing in temporary accommodations due to homelessness is also at a record high, proving that this new rise in homelessness is already leaving an unfavorable mark on future generations.

Factors Fueling Scottish Homelessness

Put simply, Scotland is currently receiving more homeless applications than it can resolve, which has resulted in a vast increase in general homelessness, family homelessness, and child homelessness, paired with a marginal increase in unsheltered homelessness as well.

Startlingly enough, the number of children residing in temporary accommodation due to homelessness has spiked by 31% in three years. In places like Glasgow and Edinburg, those numbers are much higher.

Experts from Shelter Scotland claim the steep rise and economic fall here stem from a lack of social housing, a growing problem the government was well aware of but has chosen to ignore.

“Over the years, they have been presented with endless evidence and testimony that investing in social housing ends homelessness, tackles child poverty, and is vital in tackling the housing emergency,” explained an exasperated housing director named Alison Watson. Watson boasts more than 20 years of experience in the social services sector and is currently overseeing Shelter Scotland in its efforts to influence positive housing policy change.

Here’s a look at the factors fueling the current crisis:

  • A dwindling, inadequate supply of affordable homes – Government housing statistics reflect a 21% decrease in approvals for socially rented homes since 2021 and a 19% decrease in starts for this type of housing.
  • Inadequate supply of social housing – Government housing statistics also reflect the need to build at least 38,500 social homes per year for five years to pace with the current and rising demand.

Homelessness Hurts: Meet the People Behind the Numbers

It’s easy to review these figures in your head without truly understanding the repercussions. Sure, the numbers on the page are certainly scary—a 31% increase here, a record-high in homelessness there. Still, it’s important to acknowledge that these figures reflect real people living real lives. These are your neighbors, your family members, your friends. These so-called Invisible People could someday even be you.

“When I first became homeless, I was 16, young, confused, thought I knew everything; but, in reality, you know nothing,” said Sam in a heart-wrenching interview.

Throughout the conversation, Sam reveals that he wound up being homeless in Scotland for the entirety of his adult life, an adverse situation that took hold in his youth, just as it is doing for tens of thousands of young people today.  

“I felt abandoned,” Sam said, and that sense of abandonment was the one thing that never left him, even as he moved from place to place.

Let’s Not Abandon Our Neighbors and Youth to Homelessness. Talk to Your Local Reps Today.

The growing number of homeless people in Scotland is not the result of an individual flaw, nor is it a fading trend. This community crisis is rapidly growing and needs to be rectified immediately.

Talk to your local representatives today about creating an adequate supply of affordable and social homes for the people who will be the leaders of tomorrow and for many generations yet to come.

Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith


Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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