If you’ve been finding it hard to retain a sense of optimism in recent weeks, spare a thought for Alison Watson.
After 18 years working on the frontlines of homelessness with Shelter Scotland, Watson takes over the top role this week, stepping into the charity’s directorship at what is, to put it mildly, a challenging time. But if she’s feeling the pressure, you’d be hard pushed to tell. “It wouldn’t be the way I would want to take on a leadership role, not being able to go out and see people,” she shrugs, smiling. “But we’ll work around it.”
To say Watson is facing a complicated picture pushes understatement to new levels. While a huge amount has been achieved in recent weeks in terms of housing homeless people and banning evictions during lockdown, it’s a temporary fix with no current exit plan.
“Before this public health emergency, we had a housing emergency, in that we just don’t have enough safe, secure and affordable homes for people who need them,” Watson says. “I think the particular nature of this crisis – the need for people to stay at home and the idea that the safest place for people to be is in their home – highlights the plight of people who don’t have a secure home, or are in temporary housing with shared bathrooms, shared kitchens and conditions in which people can’t self-isolate. So, I think it’s actually raised awareness of some of the less visible forms of homelessness, and that’s a real positive.”
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