The National Records of Scotland recently reported that an estimated 244 people died in 2022 while experiencing homelessness, with the highest rates in Edinburgh. This is up from 164 in 2017, and very little has improved from 2021 (250). These numbers are catastrophic.

Drug misuse accounted for 36% of the deaths, and alcohol-specific deaths were 13% of the total. Put together, essentially half of the deaths were due to drugs or alcohol. Due to the complex nature of homelessness, it is likely that all these numbers are an under-estimation. It has also been reported that there has been a 13% increase in drug deaths in the first nine months of 2023103 more people have died than in the same period last year.

The Scottish Government has taken action to tackle homelessness and to support recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, but there is a huge risk that these deaths are accepted as inevitable – they’re not. Tackling these issues should be the number one priority in the cost of living crisis.

I don’t say that lightly. In last year’s Budget, the Social Justice, Housing and Local Government portfolio received £15.25 billion (32% of the total Budget) — the only portfolio that received more was Health and Social Care (£19.06 billion). It is therefore a major priority for the Scottish Government too.


Tackling homelessness and drug addiction should not be viewed as separate priorities to economic growth, since a stronger economy would lead to greater economic opportunities and less poverty. We understand that the issue is complex and multifaceted, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a huge amount that can be done within a £50 billion annual budget – even within its current pressures.

We recognise and affirm the work the Scottish Government has done and is doing. The Scottish Child Payment has been an excellent policy that has made a lifeline difference to families all over Scotland. We welcome the £30.5m Homelessness Prevention Fund; the rights that individuals have in Scotland when they are assessed as homeless; the £160m investment in drug and alcohol addiction reduction and the publication of the National Drugs Mission Plan 2022 – 2026.

But the death rates are still tragically high. We urge the Scottish Government to think hard and creatively through the Budget’s allocations as to how they can end these socioeconomic emergencies. We recognise that the Scottish Government says it could do more with the full powers of independence and acknowledge this is important context within which these challenges are occurring. But we urge the Scottish Government to make reducing homelessness and drug deaths the number one priority as we continue to live through the cost of living crisis.

"Can the government re-allocate relatively small amounts of money to double or triple the financial support for charities and service providers?"

This is because in budgetary terms, the figures mentioned above form a very small part of the overall £50 billion Budget. The overall economy, housing and health make up a significant majority of the rest of the Budget which is of course interlinked with tackling homelessness and increasing drug and alcohol addiction recovery. But specifically within the context of the Budget, can the government re-allocate relatively small amounts of money to double or triple the financial support for charities and service providers? Can the government empower local authorities to work with them to meet every individual need? Can the government re-prioritise healthy communities and the role of churches and faith communities within them to prevent homelessness and drug addiction from occurring? 

A spokesperson from Glasgow City Mission said: We are very concerned about the extremely large numbers of people now in temporary accommodation in Glasgow, we believe around 1,000. This has created a bottle neck in the system. We urge the Scottish Government to do all they can to seek permanent, supported accommodation that would reduce this number and allow a route from a hostel to a home for those affected by homelessness.” 

God’s heart for socioeconomic justice is crystal clear throughout the Bible, and has formed the basis for why Christians — and by extension the Western world it so greatly influenced — seek to do justice. It is one of the clearest themes through the entirety of the Old Testament, and no more clearly is it expressed than through the person and life of Jesus – especially through the Sermon on the Mount. His teaching explains why the first Christians went against the prevailing culture of Rome and supported vulnerable women, orphans and those in material poverty. James 1:27 – 2:26 also explains clearly how socioeconomic justice is fundamental to the Christian life, as we are reflecting God’s unconditional love for us. 

Our focus on doing justice is first and foremost for the most vulnerable in our society. We strive for this when we represent our members here at the Evangelical Alliance to the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament. 

Our member organisations lead by example: 

  • Through a whole-person approach to homelessness prevention, crisis intervention and providing housing and support, Bethany Christian Trust supports around 7,000 people each year with over 30 different services across Scotland. 
  • Christians Against Poverty Scotland provides free, professional and loving support for anyone struggling with financial difficulties, transforming lives in partnership with churches across Scotland. 
  • Glasgow City Mission has been supporting Glasgow’s marginalised communities for over 200 years, meeting both immediate and long-term needs for people experiencing homelessness, addiction or poverty, as well as supporting asylum seekers and refugees. 
  • The ARCH Resettlement Centre offers one-to-one supported living arrangements for those in recovery over six months as they prepare to secure their own tenancy following rehabilitation. 
  • Safe Families Scotland works with local authorities to link children, young people and families with local volunteers who support them, both tackling loneliness and empowering families who are in difficulties. 
  • New Team in Govan do fantastic youth work to support young people in the area, helping them to grow in confidence and empowering them to make a difference for others. 

The list goes on, and we recognise the many non-faith-based charities who also work to support vulnerable people across Scotland. Their focus is our focus – we want to see homelessness and drug death rates finally substantively decrease in Scotland. 

In our Stories of Hope: addiction recovery report last year, we shared amazing testimonies of how lives have been transformed by the support of Christian charities all over Scotland. We also found that 75% of those who were consulted for the report wanted to see more staff employed within the recovery sector – undoubtedly this is because they see the need there is for support of those in difficult circumstances beyond their own capacity to be able to help. 

Scotland could be known as the place where homelessness wasn’t accepted as inevitable, where it went from the top of the European drug deaths league table to the bottom, where it is seen as a model the world over for how to do community transformation. We know lives are being transformed by churches and charities in Scotland every single day, and with the continued support of the government, this incredible work can increase. 

We believe the government can ensure the upcoming Budget will lead to a reduction in homelessness and drug deaths in 2024