A lot of constituents have been in touch recently about homelessness issues in Cardiff Central. I work with local Councillors, Council Officers and the police to make sure that helping homeless people is a priority.
The 2014 Welsh Housing Act places a statutory duty on Councils to help those who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless. This focus on prevention has helped almost 10,000 people avoid homelessness or successfully provided a home for someone who was homeless in the year 2015-2016.
This Welsh Government legislation means that anyone in Wales who is willing to co-operate with Council services has a statutory right to be found accommodation, and Cardiff Council is constantly working to meet this legal duty.
Cardiff Council is aiming to ensure that there are no rough sleepers in Cardiff within the next 5 years and they are working towards this in a number of ways.
The Council’s Outreach service works full time (twenty four hours a day, seven days a week) to locate rough sleepers, help them into emergency beds and provide other services as needed.
Many rough sleepers have very complex needs and this is a delicate and resource-intensive service. The Council Cabinet Member Lynda Throne said in a recent statement; “There is no need for anyone to have to sleep out” and urged those who were to contact the Council Outreach service.
If you’re concerned about a homeless person please direct them towards this service. Their number is 029 2057 0750 and they can be reached out of hours on 029 2087 3141. Between April and November last year, 119 rough sleepers were housed by this service. There is ongoing work between organisations including the Wallich, YMCA, the Huggard, the Salvation Army, along with professional help from the NHS, Police and the Council.
There are some practical ways that you can help. You can donate by text message to Give DIFFerently, which helps fund homeless support services in the city. Click here for information about how to donate. The Council is also eager for volunteers to join the following services, y Greenfarm (Family Hostel), Ty Tresillian (Single Person Hostel), The Gypsy Traveller Services, Adams Court (Family/Single temporary accommodation), Outreach (Street Homeless Service). For full details on the Council website click here.
I have previously spoken to senior South Wales Police Officers about their responses to homeless people. I also routinely liaise with the Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael. There has been an increased police presence in the City Centre recently. This is part of ‘Operation Purple Ash’. This Operation is being conducted due to a rise in alcohol, drug abuse and anti-social behaviour in the City Centre and is a direct response to numerous concerns raised about these issues over a long period of time by many residents, visitors, business owners and city centre workers.
Legally the police are allowed to remove “temporary structures” which include tents and sleeping bags from public spaces, but I have been reassured in the past by senior SWP Officers that they only remove sleeping bags when there is health risk to the public, i.e. the sleeping bag contains excrement or drug paraphernalia.
Between 2004 and 2010 we saw the virtual ending of rough sleeping, with only around 1,000 people sleeping rough nationwide.
This number has climbed since 2010 and now stands at over 4,000. The Conservative UK Government has repeatedly denied that there is a problem, when anyone who has visited any town or city centre across Britain can see that it is not only a problem – it’s getting worse.
I see it in London when I am in Westminster, I saw it in Liverpool during our Labour Party Conference and with Councils struggling due to eight years of austerity, it is becoming increasingly difficult to help people in need. However, I am proud of what Cardiff Council has achieved as we try and help more people with less money I will continue to work with colleagues on this important issue.