An ageing Perth housing block with a badly tarnished reputation will be regenerated into “vibrant” flats as part of an innovative homelessness strategy.
St Catherine’s Square, which hit the headlines when it became a no-go area for postal workers, will play a key role in Perth and Kinross Council’s plans to tackle homelessness across the region.
The authority’s ‘Home First’ approach has been praised by the Scottish Government and leading charities for successfully reducing the number of people living on the streets and slashing the length of time they are left waiting for permanent housing.
Launched in 2017, the campaign aims to re-home people more quickly by avoiding putting them in temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfasts.
Plans have emerged to transform St Catherine’s Square by converting “unpopular” bedsits used for emergency temporary accommodation into modern and attractive flats or maisonettes.
A report to go before councillors this week states: “These units (at St Catherine’s Square) have primarily been used as temporary, furnished flats for many years, with a few long-standing secure tenants.
“The area has been stigmatised as a result of its long-term use as temporary accommodation and there is a high prevalence of antisocial behaviour, alcohol and substance abuse and police attendance.”
The paper continues: “We plan to regenerate the area and create a vibrant, mixed community by transferring all of the properties into mainstream housing stock.”
The plan is listed as a priority of the new strategy, which is helping people off the streets at a record rate.
The number of people presenting as homeless to the local authority dropped by nearly 19% in the last year, the report reveals.
Council chiefs launched its Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan (RRTP) last year, building on the success of its earlier Home First programme.
Between April and December 2018 and the same time period in 2019, the number of people reporting as homeless fell from 687 to 557.
The average length of people living rough has also plummeted to 76 days, from 97.
The scheme has been praised by the Scottish Government, which said the outcomes of the Home First approach had been impressive.
It has also been recognised by major charities including Shelter Scotland and Crisis as a “sector-leading example of good practice”.
Housing and Communities Convener Bob Brawn said: “Since it was introduced in 2017, the Home First approach has had a transformational effect for people who are unfortunate enough to find themselves homeless in Perth and Kinross.
“Importantly, we are seeing less people presented to us as homeless, and people who do find themselves homeless are being found suitable, settled accommodation much, much faster.”
The Conservative councillor added: “We recently submitted our updated RRTP to the Scottish Government based on feedback we have received from them. We will continue to take forward this nationally-recognised work and improve even further through initiatives like the planned redevelopment of St Catherine’s Square in Perth, that will increase our availability of settled accommodation.”