Call for compassion on homeless unit

The upper storey of this building in Jarnac Court has been earmarked for  homeless accommodation.
The upper storey of this building in Jarnac Court has been earmarked for homeless accommodation.

Councillors last week called for understanding while approving the much criticised plan to turn council offices in Dalkeith town centre into homeless accommodation.

This follows the conclusion of a consultation on the proposals with the local community about the plans for the offices at Jarnac Court. The council is now planning to put in place additional measures such as CCTV and a phased occupancy to allay some concerns.

Council also agreed to approve an increase in the number of units in the building from 20 to 22.

Labour councillor Stephen Curran spoke about the petition opposing the plans, which described the proposed unit as a “refuge for drug users and alcoholics”, with comments posted about the proposals.

He said: “Some of those comments are vile. It’s a typical example of how social media gets carried away with misinformation.

“It’s a myth that all homeless persons are homeless due to alcohol or drug dependency issues. Only 11 per cent of homeless persons require support for dependency issues with drugs and alcohol.

“The truth is that many factors contribute to homelessness. Family breakdowns, relationship breakdowns including domestic violence, mental health, problem gambling, loss of income, lack of affordable housing - that this council is taking action on.

“So I say to those few who choose to pigeon hole or stereotype homeless persons because of preconceptions. Please look at the facts first.”

SNP councillor Debbi McCall responded: “I wholeheartedly agree with everything you have said. I think it’s worthwhile mentioning that Dalkeith remains the area with the highest number of homeless applicants in Midlothian. And we have a shortage of temporary accommodation in Dalkeith.

“The same thing happened in Penicuik with Parkhead Lodge and Pentland House. And there are no issues.

“People actually need to have a little bit of compassion for people when they are in a really dreadful situation.”

Midlothian Council will now apply for an HMO license.