News : More Than 16,000 Calls to Shelter Scotland's Housing Helpline Last Year
Glasgow, Scotland, September, 2015 -- More than 16,000 calls to Shelter Scotland's housing helpline last year.
They received more than 16,000 calls last year from desperate people with housing problems.
A quarter of the calls to charity Shelter Scotland’s national helpline came from Glasgow.
Based in a small Sauchiehall Street office, eight advisors offer support to up to 30 people every day.
And the vital service is entirely funded by charitable donations from the public.
Team Leader Stephen Vallely, who previously worked in contact centres for insurance firms, said: "It’s not a numbers game but the more we do, the more people we help. That’s why we’re here.
"We’ve taken a lot from the commercial side of things and we’re trying to put that in place while maintaining the quality of advice and putting the person at the heart of what we do."
The number of homelessness application to Glasgow City Council fell from 6,694 in 2013 to 6,297 in 2014, but the phones are as busy as ever, according Mr Vallely.
He said: "We have eight staff advisors who work on a rota basis, like a contact centre would.
Between them they took 16,500 calls last year from all over the country. It’s hard work. 75% of the time we will sort the problem out on the helpline and the other 25% we will pass to our caseworkers or legal team.
"We answer as many calls as we can but there’s still a demand out there that we can’t get to."
The list of most common problems is topped by calls from people who are having trouble with their landlord, closely followed by those who don’t have a roof over their head at all.
Many are forced to sleep on the streets because councils are unable to meet their legal obligation to provide emergency accommodation due to high demand.
Mr Vallely said: "It’s a problem across the board, I’m afraid. We ask these people to go back and present again and say they have contacted Shelter and are now aware of their statutory rights. We can also put a call in and usually that is enough to make the councils move."
Homelessness caseworkers in Glasgow took part in almost four months of strike action earlier in the year, which led to a spike in the number of calls to Shelter Scotland’s helpline.
Notices placed in Glasgow’s community casework offices at the time said "acute staff shortages" meant they were "only able to deal with service users who require emergency temporary accommodation".
One of Shelter’s advisor’s Sara Pallotta said: "It was quite bad recently in Glasgow when they had issues with the caseworkers strike.
"There were a lot more calls at the time and even now we are still seeing the effects of it. There is a backlog of homeless applications so we’re still seeing a lot of cases coming from Glasgow. We’re doing what we can."
Dealing with dozens of people every day who are often in crisis situations can be stressful.
When the Evening Times visited the office last week the advisors were inundated with calls.
One homeless man called the helpline because he and his wife and children were told they faced eviction from emergency accommodation because they turned down a permanent home.
Close to tears, the man explained that the property they were offered didn’t have a bath and he was unaware that if they asked for an alternative he would be thrown out of the temporary flat.
The advisors were able to reassure him that Shelter would contact the council on his behalf and prevent the eviction.
Advisor Erica Lennie said: "Some of the people are in horrific situations and that can be quite upsetting so you’ve really just got to try to do the best you can.
"It makes you feel so fortunate you have a home to go to at the end of the day."
A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: "We made every effort to minimise disruption during recent industrial action. There was a build-up of cases in certain areas but the vast majority of these have now been dealt with."
If you have a housing problem, you can call Shelter Scotland’s national helpline free on 0808 800 4444. Lines are open between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Shelter Scotland:
Shelter Scotland provides advice and support via their website, helplines and national network of services.
Published: Tuesday, September 8, 2015
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