Wales politics

Homelessness policy 'not so good' for rough sleepers

Homeless person Image copyright Getty Images

A rise in the number of people sleeping rough in Wales highlights a "gap" in the Welsh Government's drive to tackle homelessness, according to charities.

Snapshot figures showed an increase of 72% over the year to November 2016.

The Wallich charity said the focus on preventing homelessness "hasn't fully taken into account" rough sleepers.

The Welsh Government said direct comparisons could not be made between the 2015 and 2016 surveys, but admitted there was "more to do" on homelessness.

A headcount of rough sleepers carried out one night last November showed there were 141 people sleeping on the streets of Wales compared to 82 the previous year.

A separate survey carried out over a two-week period found 313 rough sleepers, up from 240 in 2015.

Image caption Mia Rees calls for more to be done to identify why people have become homeless

Speaking to the BBC's Sunday Politics Wales programme, Mia Rees from the Wallich said: "The focus has been on a preventative agenda which hasn't fully taken into account those that sleep rough and those that live a street-based lifestyle.

"There needs to be research looking at the numbers, how they've ended up there, what could have been put in place and - now they're there - how to get them back into sustainable accommodation."

"I feel there is a gap currently in the Welsh Government's way that they're looking at things in that area."

The 2014 Housing (Wales) Act places a duty on local authorities to work with people who are at risk of losing their home.

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Media captionJennie Bibbings: "We're not so good at helping people once they have fallen into that hole"

Jennie Bibbings, campaigns manager at Shelter Cymru, told the programme the Welsh Government's homeless strategy is "proving to be a much better way of dealing with homelessness for our clients".

However, she added: "It's not working so effectively for people who are actually homeless.

"We're better at preventing homelessness than we used to be but we're not so good at helping people once they have fallen into that hole and once they are actually living on the streets."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "While we recognise the number of rough sleepers recorded by the rough sleeper exercise in 2016 was greater than previous years, direct comparisons cannot be made due to differences in timing, methodology and coverage."

He pointed out that the new legislation "has already helped around 3,500 single people who were already homeless and around 3,100 single people threatened with homelessness".

"We fully recognise that there is more to do and we expect local authorities to focus on preventing and relieving homelessness wherever possible," the spokesman added.

"We have recently announced nearly £8m for the homelessness prevention programme and also fund short term accommodation and provide support to help homeless people regain their independence."

Sunday Politics Wales is on BBC One Wales on Sunday, 12 February, at 11:00 GMT

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