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Supporting vulnerable people on Glasgow streets: views of service providers

Date: June 2019
Category: Report
Author: Fiona Crawford and Rona Dougall

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In June 2018, the Scottish Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HRSAG) published its final report on ending homelessness in Scotland.  This report drew together a series of recommendations that have been developed by HRSAG over recent years to develop a more comprehensive, rights based response to rough sleeping and homelessness.  In the introduction, the report authors highlighted the importance of more joined-up working between established agencies working with people sleeping rough in the largest cities in order to respond quickly and effectively to the needs of people then and there.     

The research and findings described in this publication grew out of multi-agency planning for the establishment of a pilot Safer Consumption Facility (SCF) and Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT) service for drug users with complex needs within Glasgow. Establishment of these services were recommended as part of a public health needs assessment conducted in response to an HIV outbreak in 2015.

A significant delay in setting up the SCF/HAT involved an extended planning period and it was agreed that this time could be used to investigate the role and remit of various organisations involved in tackling complex issues in the city centre street population, to explore the issues they focus on and how they work together to address them.

The study used qualitative methods involving face-to-face interviews with eight key informants representing organisations active within Glasgow. All informants held positions of strategic responsibility within their organisations.    

The research team found that there was a shared view that those who regularly sleep on the street often had histories of trauma and complex needs and were at risk of poor health, substance abuse and in some cases violence and exploitation. Organisations working with the street homeless in the city centre were clear about the need to work together through a shared and consistent trauma-informed approach in their practice. 

There was consensus that direct giving by the public was a factor in street begging and that it was important to inform the public of the work being done to support this population and to develop innovative outreach work through alternative giving schemes. Key informants supported the establishment of a health-led safe injecting facility as part of a wider multi-faceted public health response to meet the physical, social and mental health needs of vulnerable populations.