Homelessness has always been a problem in Scotland.

Poverty, abuse and relationship breakdowns are just some of the things that can contribute to someone becoming homeless.

Groups of people who experience discrimination are particularly vulnerable, including the elderly, young people and those with mental health problems.

Not only that but 25 per cent of those homeless in the UK are lone parents.

In West Dunbartonshire we have a particular problem with one of the highest homelessness rates in the country.

You would think that with a problem of this magnitude our elected representatives would be encouraging council officials to take responsibility to provide good accommodation for all those living in the area. Unfortunately not.

West Dunbartonshire wants to transfer a significant amount of their remaining housing stock to housing associations.

Now I am sure you will be aware that some areas have experienced refurbishment etc under housing associations.

In fact there have been allegations that local authorities have in the past run down their housing to encourage people to vote for housing stock transfers.

The difficulty is there is no guarantee.

Where there are many benefits from local people being involved in decisions regarding their housing, there is also a risk of power struggles where families in key positions could benefit.

There is also something fundamental, however, about what responsibility our elected representatives actually have.

We currently have approximately 7,000 people registered as homeless in West Dunbartonshire Council.

This is probably an underestimate as many people try to struggle on alone, sleeping on couches here and there as well as sleeping rough.

The question is, who is best suited to address these issues?

Is it individual housing associations, whose priority is housing, or is it our local authority who has a responsibility to integrate housing issues in a council wide approach, including child protection etc.

How will the council strategically approach our community's difficulties if they keep hiving off the tools to address them to other organisations?

Additional approaches by the UK Government are not helping. Reductions in housing benefit, increases in repossessions and proposals to end a home for life will see continuing increases in homeless and unstable housing.

We need elected representatives to step up to the plate, have some vision and address these problems.

Whilst the ConDems reduce housing benefit our local authority is trying to hand our social housing stock to housing associations who are currently on average charging 11 per cent more for rent than the council.

We also need the council to support housing workers who have the skill and experience gathered over years of employment in housing, rather than put more jobs at risk.

I recently attended the funeral of someone living in the streets of the area.

This cannot be allowed to continue.

This needs a political solution rather than a market one. If that fails to convince you what is it exactly am I paying my Council Tax for if it is not to protect the most vulnerable?

� Housing stock transfer latest