Homeless sent out of city to make room for Taylor Swift fans

Taylor Swift
Competition for hotel rooms is fierce ahead of the Taylor Swift concerts in Edinburgh [Reuters]

A number of homeless people have been sent out of Edinburgh to make way for tourists ahead of Taylor Swift performing in the city, BBC News has learned.

Shelter Scotland said several homeless people it supports had been sent via taxi to Aberdeen and Glasgow amid a shortage in accommodation, and one person was offered temporary accommodation as far away as Newcastle.

The housing charity said it was “a blatant injustice” for homeless people to be “in direct competition” with tourists.

Edinburgh City Council said it was working with affected households to find “appropriate, alternative accommodation”.

Taylor Swift will be playing three nights at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield stadium from 7 to 9 June. Hundreds of thousands of fans are set to flock to the city, and competition for hotel rooms is fierce.

The housing charity said people being declared homeless in Edinburgh who would usually be offered temporary accommodation such as hotels were being sent out of the city due to a severe shortage in accommodation caused by the concert.

There is no evidence of homeless people being removed from accommodation where they are already staying.

There is a legal obligation for people declared homeless in Scotland to be offered emergency temporary accommodation, and this can come in the form of hotels.

The council declared a housing emergency last November, citing record homelessness figures, a severe shortage of social rented homes and spiralling private rental costs.

It said the use of tourist accommodation for homeless households was a symptom of that housing emergency.

Earlier this month, the Scottish government also declared a national housing emergency after sustained pressure from campaigners and opposition parties.

Shelter Scotland director Alison Watson said the situation in Edinburgh was further evidence of the urgency of the country’s housing emergency.

“In Edinburgh that emergency now places people experiencing homelessness in direct competition with tourists; a blatant injustice,” she said.

“Our frontline services are already seeing people in need of a bed tonight being told their only option is to leave of the city.

“A family going through the trauma of homelessness in Edinburgh should not have to move miles from their job, school, and community to find emergency accommodation. “

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift will be playing three nights in Edinburgh next month [EPA]

Ms Watson said a different response was needed from the Scottish government.

And she added that without change, it could be expected that the issue would reoccur during the city’s Fringe Festival in August.

Edinburgh City Council said it was “absolutely not” moving tenants out of temporary accommodation to make way for Taylor Swift fans.

However, its housing convenor Councillor Jane Meagher, said: “It is a symptom of the housing emergency we face in Edinburgh that at times we must use tourist accommodation to house homeless households.

“We know it won’t be available year-round, particularly over the busy summer months, so we use it reluctantly as a last resort.

“We’re aware of the situation and are working with the affected households to find appropriate, alternative accommodation.”

Alexander, who has been homeless for four months, told BBC Scotland News he was scared that he would be on the streets again this weekend.

The 20-year-old is currently staying in a temporary hotel in Edinburgh, but says he will have to leave on Friday and present as homeless again to the council.

“It’s going to be near impossible to get accommodation because everything is booked or they’ve upped their prices,” he said.

The council books tourist accommodation - like hotels - for homeless households as a last resort and a short-term fix. It only books them for seven-day periods.

It is not uncommon for hotels to be fully booked around major events such as the Edinburgh Fringe or other concerts, but campaigners fear the sheer scale of Taylor Swift’s appearance has caused a surge in demand.

Common budget hotels such as Travelodge and Premier Inn are fully booked for that weekend, and other hotels on the outskirts of the city are quoting minimum prices of £330 for one-night stays.

Alexander says he’s been given no indication of where he will be sent after Friday, and claimed that in the past he has been handed a sleeping bag and told to sleep rough for the night.

“I’ve got severe depression and anxiety and my anxiety is out of control at the moment because I don’t know what’s going to happen to me.

“I’m more than nervous, I’m scared, because I don’t know where I’m going to end up on Friday or after that.”

A spokesperson for Edinburgh Council reiterated that it has a legal duty to provide homeless people with accommodation and said no-one would be handed a sleeping bag.