Rough sleepers in Welsh capital reaches highest level

A charity has opened up on the growing challenge of homelessness in Cardiff, revealing that there are people living in their cars whilst working.

The number of rough sleepers in Cardiff has reached its highest level since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to figures from Cardiff Council.

However, this number has remained significantly lower than what it was prior to February 2020.

At a meeting of Cardiff Council’s community and adult services scrutiny committee, representatives from a number of bodies including South Wales Police (SWP), The Wallich, the Huggard, YMCA and the Salvation Army spoke about the key challenges they face regarding homelessness in Cardiff.

A report of written evidence submitted to committee members by homelessness charity The Wallich, said there are “significant gaps in service provision” and that “major changes are needed to meet growing demand”.

The report also stated that there are “significant shortcomings” in the current housing support offer and that they are noticing a significant increase in presentations of people who are in work, but facing homelessness.

It added: “These individuals are typically unable to access support due to their work status and income levels, however they are also unable to afford suitable housing in the private rented sector.

“To stay in temporary accommodation without receiving housing benefits can mean an individual is liable to pay up to £200 per week.

“Faced with no other alternative, we have heard examples clients living in their
cars whilst working.”

However, the charity did highlight that there are examples of positive partnership working between themselves and Cardiff Council.

Their report also stated that there are a number of services, accommodation projects and partnerships which are working well across the city, referencing the single assessment centre (SAC) – a bespoke presentation pathway for single people – and the Multi Disciplinary Team (MDT).

The charity said this is a “valuable service” which offers a wide spectrum of specialist skills, provides instant access to a psychiatric nurse and referrals for counselling are quick.

Cardiff Council data shows that the average number of rough sleepers in the city was 26 in February 2023. The last time this figure was higher was in March 2020, when the average number of rough sleepers in Cardiff was at 30.

The council’s figures also show that the average number of rough sleepers peaked in December 2018 and September 2019 at 87 people.

Cardiff Council cabinet member for housing and communities, Cllr Lynda Thorne, said: “Our outreach team, working together with The Wallich and The Salvation Army brought 92 rough sleepers into accommodation last year and although more than we would like, the number of people sleeping rough are still well below pre-pandemic levels.

“Despite all of this good work, however, and due to the current crisis which is being experienced across Wales, services remain under a great deal of pressure.

“In just one night, more than 90 people sought help with emergency accommodation.

“To ensure we could meet this demand, we have unfortunately had to resume to the re-use of shared sleeping spaces.

“This has meant that placements have often been made based on the accommodation available rather than the needs of the individual.

“Clearly there is still more work to be done and I am pleased to say that we have plans to open more move on schemes later this year, providing settled, good quality accommodation for single people.”

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