A NATIONWIDE crusade to end homelessness in Scotland has been launched in Barrhead.

The man behind the initiative is local activist Sean Clerkin, who is campaign co-ordinator for the Scottish Tenants Organisation.

Mr Clerkin and other members of the group set out their aims at a lunchtime open air meeting held in Barrhead’s Main Street last week.

They plan to stage similar gatherings across Scotland, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, over the coming days in a bid to raise more awareness.

Mr Clerkin, who lives in Aurs Road, said there were a record 27,322 homeless people in Scotland last year, including 7,900 children – a 20% increase on 2019.

And he fears the figures will rise as people struggle to pay their rent or mortgages after losing jobs or seeing their income cut during the Covid pandemic.

Mr Clerkin told the Barrhead News: “We need to build more good-quality, socially-rented homes in East Renfrewshire and across Scotland to bring homelessness to an end.

“East Renfrewshire Council has always met its obligations to homeless people but needs more money from the Scottish Government.

“There is no place for homelessness in a civilised society.

“We will witness another increase unless measures are taken now to stop this from happening.”

Mr Clerkin is calling for a dedicated government minister for the homeless and the building of 37,100 new homes across the country over the next five years.

He also wants to see the introduction of rent controls across Scotland and a complete ban on evictions for the next two years.

“Our entire culture towards the homeless has to change for the better or we are going to see an increase in people sleeping rough in the streets,” he added.

Among those supporting the campaign is Barrhead man James Devine, 66, who ended up homeless after returning to Scotland from Nigeria in 2017, having worked abroad for more than 20 years.

The software expert suffered depression after failing to find work and soon found himself living in homeless hostels.

However, he secured a one-bedroom flat in Giffnock in 2018, thanks to the intervention of Mr Clerkin, and hasn’t looked back since.

Mr Devine said: “In my view, the homeless numbers will grow steadily as we ease out of lockdown.

“We should not tolerate a situation where even one of our citizens is without the prospects of suitable housing.

“Many of the homeless today have suffered and continue to suffer immeasurable health and personal value issues.

“I was one of the lucky ones.”

Councillor Danny Devlin, who represents Barrhead as an independent, is also backing the campaign and attended last week’s launch event.

He said: “Locally, we have a massive queue on the homeless list and we are finding it difficult to bring it down the way councils should.

“The main reason we have the queue is that we don’t have enough houses.”