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Scots seek homeless solution to replace dangerous hostels

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Glasgow's architecture centre, the Lighthouse, is hosting a workshop this week to explore alternatives to the notorious hostel buildings for the homeless.

The event is the culmination of a year of work between the Lighthouse, the Glasgow Institute of Architects (GIA) and the Big Issue following the Scottish executive's decision to close down all the country's hostels within the next three years. The results will be presented to ministers and civil servants at the Scottish Executive next Wednesday with the hope of influencing future policy.

Six teams headed by an architect and artist will work with groups of homeless Big Issue vendors in a brainstorming exercise. Organiser David Hassan from TPT Associates said the teams would be approaching the discussions without preconceptions. 'It's fairly well documented how dangerous the hostels are and we will be looking at how to address the question of what will replace them, ' he said. 'But it would be counterproductive to second guess what will be produced. It may be a new building type - but it would have to be like a house but not permanent, and have some aspects of a house and some aspects of a hospital.'

President of the GIA Joan Scott said the Scottish Executive lacked a practical alternative to the hostels, other than the stated aim of eradicating homelessness - which though laudable was impractical.

And she added: 'Everything that has been done to date has been characterised by the fact that the end user has never been taken into account. Most work has been done without the input of the homeless themselves.

'We are not necessarily looking for a building solution. It could be something more ethereal.

One suggestion is for the artists to walk around areas used by the homeless to find out what factors like smells and lighting attract them, to find the key to encouraging them to take up residency.'

The other architects taking part include Murray Russell from Russell Bryce, Fiona Sinclair from Sinclair McPhail, Jane Manelly from Hypostyle, Robin Mclory of ADF and Graham Lyle from the Glasgow City Council's building services department.

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