Scottish Homeless Deaths: ‘Adequate Housing’ Is More Than Physical Condition

A three storey hotel above a storey of shops
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The Scottish government contracted with the Rennie Mackintosh Hotel in Glasgow to provide temporary accommodation to homeless people during COVID. Despite the physical safety offered by being indoors, seven people died.

When we think of adequate housing, many, if not most of us, might be excused for thinking about heating, cooling, mould, drafts, secure locks — physical conditions that must live up to a measurable, basic standard. But the United Nations Right to Adequate Housing takes the term ‘adequate’ far more broadly.

When COVID hit Scotland, as it hit the rest of the world, many homeless found themselves scooped off the streets and registered in what most of us might think as welcome – a cozy, secure and weatherproof hotel or motel room.

Perfectly ‘adequate’?

Not necessarily. the UN’s definitions of ‘adequate’ are people-oriented as well as construction-oriented. More awareness of individual human needs could have spared a number of lives lost when homeless people were ‘dumped’ into hotel rooms and thereafter abandoned.

Local governments might well have congratulated themselves that, thanks to COVID safety imperatives and emergency funding, they were following the mantra of the proven Finnish program to end homelessness — Housing First. But the existence of a ‘first’ step strongly implies a second step, and indeed that is the provision of adequate supports.

In Scotland, that support failed in some cases, and the results were deadly. Had the UN’s definition of ‘adequate housing’ more broadly appreciated and supported, tragic deaths might have been prevented.

Read more in the Daily Record: Deaths of 23 homeless people at three Glasgow hotels blamed on ‘dumping’ of vulnerable without support

Early in the 2020 COVID response, a post at reported from Australia that people who were homeless abandoned hotel rooms that had been provided to ensure their safety. Politicians were indignant. Try: Australians Resist COVID-19 Path To Eliminate Homelessness