Housing and Local Government Minister Julie James has announced new funding of up to £20 million to help ensure that no-one in emergency shelter during the coronavirus crisis has to return to the streets or unsuitable accommodation.
The Welsh Government’s initial funding package of £10 million has meant that over 800 people have been housed since lockdown began. Many of these people were previously forced to sleep on our streets or were the ‘hidden homeless’ living precariously as ‘sofa surfers’ or in unsuitable temporary accommodation.
The Welsh Government now wants to build on this success to change the approach to homelessness for the long term.
Local authorities will be asked to draw up plans to transform services and the accommodation offer across Wales to help those currently in temporary accommodation to move on to a longer term home and ensure dignified suitable options for those who face homelessness in the future. The additional funding, support and guidance will help them to achieve this.
Announcing the funding ahead of a virtual summit on homelessness with local authorities, registered social landlords, health services and the third sector, Julie James said:
The collaborative effort of the sector to accommodate homeless people during the pandemic has been incredible. Getting over 800 people off the streets or away from unsuitable accommodation has not been easy but by working together we have made a big difference to the lives of these people.
This does not, however, mean we have resolved homelessness in Wales. We have achieved a temporary reprieve, but it remains our goal to end homelessness and we will not see people forced back onto the streets.
This crisis has provided us with a unique opportunity to change the services and change lives for the better and I am truly excited about this. This funding, together with the collaborative approach we have taken so far gives me confidence that we can now make a significant step towards achieving our goal of ending homelessness in Wales.
Jon Sparkes, chair of the Homelessness Action Group and chief executive of Crisis, said:
The coronavirus outbreak has affected everyone in our society but people facing homelessness are among the most exposed. Swift and decisive action early on by the Welsh Government, councils, Welsh public services and charities has successfully protected many people by providing emergency accommodation.
This has been a very challenging time for many of us but it shows how much we can achieve by working together. We now need to urgently start the next phase of helping people into safe and secure homes, so that we don’t see people forced back onto the street or into unsafe temporary accommodation.
The Welsh Government is taking very positive steps right now and as we move out of lockdown I look forward to seeing in due course the Welsh Government’s plan to prevent and end homelessness for good as the Homelessness Action Group recommended.
Councillor Andrea Lewis (Swansea), WLGA Spokesperson for Housing said:
I am extremely proud of the work carried out by housing professionals in local authorities, in close collaboration with social landlords, support providers, the private sector and Welsh Government, to provide accommodation for homeless people and those in unsuitable accommodation at this very unsettling time. We look forward to continuing to work together to help make sure that we are still able to continue providing this much needed support after the crisis has subsided.