The last evening of the wee break in Scotland and on walking the streets of Edinburgh today it was not so much the beauty of this “Athens of the North” that caught my attention, but rather the number of people begging and sleeping rough in the city.
Of course, the problems in Edinburgh are no different from any other major British city and although an article in ‘The Scotsman’ states that “Edinburgh has the most rough sleepers in Scotland” it might be worth noting that article is more than two years old and a more recent article catches our attention with a headline stating “Edinburgh drastically cuts amount of rough sleepers” . Moreover, that particular article was written less than two months after an article in Glasgow’s ‘Evening Times’ on the 19th May which reported that more than 800 are sleeping rough in Scotland’s biggest city. Or, more than twice as many as Edinburgh, even if you use the original figures from ‘The Scotsman’. Moreover, this is only the tip of the iceberg and a Shelter report in 2015 pointed out that “In 2014-15, 35,764 homeless applications were made”.
Still, let us forget the statistics for a second, the fact is, the problem which I noticed in Glasgow became sort of all pervading today in Edinburgh and, while that might be because of the number of sad, lost, individuals, I saw was due to the amount of walking i was doing, I just couldn’t come to terms with the sheer numbers I was seeing not only during the day, but also this evening when the only thing keeping the temperatures above zero was the encroaching rain.
This and other forms of homelessness is the reality for many and it is a reality that nobody deserves. Indeed, we should focus on the people behind the statistics, rather than the statistics themselves, and when we do this we will see that everyone deserves better than sleeping rough, or in temporary accommodation. Furthermore, whatever the statistics tell us, one thing is certain. During the last few days in Edinburgh and Glasgow I saw that sleeping rough is a tragedy that is almost endemic in both cities.