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Council / Orkney seeking short-term homeless housing in Shetland due to accommodation shortage

ORKNEY Islands Council (OIC) seeking short-term accommodation in Shetland and Caithness for people presenting as homeless shows the pressure local authorities are under, according to Shetland Islands Council’s housing manager Anita Jamieson.

She said looking at neighbouring areas if there is limited availability locally is a “natural step”.

Last week it emerged during a council meeting in Orkney that the “unprecedented step” had been taken to look for accommodation in other areas, such as Shetland, for people presenting as homeless due to seasonal demand creating a shortage of accommodation.

The number of people actually affected by this is said to be very low and the arrangement would only last a couple of weeks, however.

It was already known that the OIC’s housing department was looking at arrangements outside the county – in the Highland council area – after it was discussed at a meeting in May.

Orkney councillors heard last week that while staff were working very hard to ensure people who present as homeless stay in Orkney, there are a number of factors at play.

This includes more people presenting as homeless over the last few years, the council’s housing stock being full, and the busy summer season leaving a lack of availability at any short-term accommodation, such as local hotels and B&Bs.

The council’s service manager for housing, Lesley Mulraine, said she felt anyone in the situation would have a reluctance to leave Orkney, but “there is an understanding” that the council has been “pulling out all the stops” to make sure sending someone to Caithness or Shetland is an “absolute last resort”.

Francis Troup, the council’s head of housing, also said that “nobody is being told they must go”.

The actual number of people affected by these arrangements is said to be less than five, and may just be one.

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Speaking in response, Shetland Islands Council’s housing manager Anita Jamieson said: “This is an illustration of the pressure that is on all local authorities at the moment and the reason that housing emergencies are being declared.

“Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide suitable temporary accommodation and if the supply of that is constrained then looking at what properties may be available in neighbouring areas is a natural step.

“Anyone being placed outwith the authority they present to as homeless remains the responsibility of that authority, who will have to source temporary accommodation elsewhere until they can find something in their own stock.

“There is no link to our own property stock in Shetland, and no link to our own homeless service or our temporary or permanent accommodation.”

Orkney copy by Orkney local democracy reporter Andrew Stewart

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