by Paul Bevan
Nobody understands the realities of homelessness better than people who have gone through it themselves.
So, for our new report Shelter Cymru asked people who have experienced homelessness about how we can say hwyl fawr (goodbye) to homelessness for good. We heard from 253 people through surveys and focus groups and their views fed into the Welsh Government’s Homelessness Action Group which was set up to find solutions to ending homelessness in Wales (read their report to Welsh Ministers here). Homelessness has such a significant impact; it was alarming that most people who had experienced homelessness in the last five years told us that they still worried about their housing situation.
People gave a range of practical suggestions for ending homelessness. These included more affordable and permanent homes being provided quickly when people become homeless, alongside support for as long as people need it. People said while there isn’t enough affordable housing, priority should be given to people in the greatest need.
People told us that there should be better co-ordination of help – this includes prisons, health, housing, homelessness and support services working more closely together. People said that a lot more work is needed to ensure no one leaves hospital or prison without a home. We were also told that consistent, straightforward, and co-ordinated homelessness and housing services are needed across Wales.
The quality of temporary accommodation for homeless people needs to be improved. Using B&Bs as temporary accommodation should be avoided, people sleeping rough should have easier access to emergency accommodation and people should be helped irrespective of whether they have a connection with the area.
Often people facing homelessness are in severe financial hardship – people told us that the welfare system needs to change so that people can afford their housing and living costs, and that tenants who struggle to pay their rent should be offered support very quickly as a way of preventing homelessness.
Two fundamental factors emerged from talking with people from which so much could stem. Firstly people felt that everyone should have a legal right to a home. Enshrined in law this should lead to a new perspective on the essential nature of a home – and much faster scaling up of the building of good quality affordable new homes or ensuring empty homes are used again. And secondly people called for kind and compassionate services and for homeless people to be treated with dignity and respect – bedrocks from which the right actions should spring.
This report involved listening to the views of people with experience of homelessness; they have told us and have told the Welsh Government what they feel is required. We must be much more willing to learn from people with experience of homelessness to ensure that their voices are heard much more clearly, as together we strengthen our resolve to say a resounding ‘hwyl fawr to homelessness’.