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Wheatley Group has announced a significant boost to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping in Scotland.

The country’s leading housing, care and property management group has pledged an additional 100 homes to Housing First as part of a package of measures to help vulnerable people during the coronavirus crisis.

Housing First is a partnership set up to tackle rough sleeping by giving secure mainstream tenancies to people who are currently sleeping rough or living in hostels and other temporary accommodation.

The extra 100 homes are in addition to the 200 homes Wheatley committed to Housing First following Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park fundraising events in in December 2018. A total of 120 homes from that commitment have already been provided.

The move is the latest part of Wheatley Group’s continuing commitment to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping in Scotland, and was welcomed by Housing Minister Kevin Stewart MSP.

He said: “Settled accommodation with the correct support measures continues to be the best way of solving homelessness so I welcome Wheatley Group’s pledge of an additional 100 homes to Housing First.”

In a separate commitment to tackling homelessness, Wheatley also pledged at the start of the coronavirus crisis to provide 300 empty homes to local authorities to use as temporary accommodation for homeless people. It has now handed over 203 of those homes.

Wheatley has also committed to ‘flip’ 150 temporary furnished homes, turning them into permanent homes for the homeless people occupying them.

Wheatley Chief Executive Martin Armstrong said: “We’re doing all we can, as Scotland’s largest housing, care and property-management group, to use our size and scale to help the most vulnerable people in our communities, including the homeless.

“This involves working closely and effectively with our many partners, including Scottish Government and local authorities across the country, on initiatives such as Housing First, which we’ve supported from the beginning.

“No-one should ever underestimate the importance of everyone having a warm, safe and secure home and, in the case of rough sleepers and the homeless, making sure this is accompanied by all the necessary support needed to help people rebuild their lives.”

Mr Armstrong added: “Our original Housing First commitment was for 200 homes and now that over 120 are home to rough sleepers and homeless people, we are providing an additional 100 in recognition of the scale of the ongoing challenge faced.”

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart MSP said: “The Scottish Government has worked in close partnership with local government and frontline organisations to ensure our response to this crisis has been swift and effective in order to keep people safe.

“Rapid rehousing is the key to getting anyone experiencing homelessness into settled accommodation. The Housing First Pathfinder programme, which is funded by Scottish Government alongside Social Bite, continues to find long-term accommodation for people even with challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.

“The pandemic has shown what we can do if we work together to address social issues. It has been challenging and will remain so but we are determined to ensure everyone has a secure and settled home once the crisis ends.”

Josh Littlejohn, co-founder and Chief Executive of Social Bite, said: “This commitment from Wheatley Group will be instrumental in helping people transition into permanent housing.

“This major boost will help break the cycle of rough sleeping for homeless people in Scotland.”

Last month, Wheatley donated £100,000 to Social Bite’s food delivery service and committed £350,000 to its own, hugely-expanded EatWell food service, which has delivered almost 15,000 emergency packages from Dumfries and Galloway to Kirkcaldy and from Beith to Dumbarton and Glasgow to Edinburgh.

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