Youth homelessness, a priority

Image: Young homeless

CC – JMSuarez

The number of homeless people in Wales is rising, especially among the young. At a conference in Cardiff, organised by the Chartered Institute of Housing, homelessness was taken seriously.

Speaking at the the Tai 2018 event, the Welsh Minister for Housing and Regeneration said Wales has invested 20 million pounds this year to tackle homelessness – and will invest an extra 10 million in the next year. However, Rebecca Evans admitted too many young people are going into homelessness.

Tamsin Stirling, an independent housing consultant said, “The experience of homelessness for young people could be really damaging and that damage could continue for the rest of their life”. In her opinion the UK is quite good at managing youth homelessness, with temporary accommodation schemes or supporting housing, but much more needs to be done in terms of prevention, as she stressed that “we are still not stopping the number of young people coming into youth homelessness”.

Matthew Kennedy and Tamsin Stirling.  Photo: CNP

Figures show that there were at least 345 people sleeping rough across Wales in October 2017, showing a steady rise in numbers, even though it is not possible to know the precise number.

The current system for allocating housing gives priority to people in certain categories –  having children, fleeing domestic abuse, being a separated parent, among others. The National Assembly’s Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee has called on the Welsh government to abolish priority needs in order to give all homeless households, including rough sleepers, the right to housing.

“The number of people sleeping rough in Wales is growing and as a society this is something we simply shouldn’t accept,” said John Griffiths AM, Chair of the committee. “What our inquiry has found is that the criteria used to identify those who are in ‘priority need’ of accommodation is such that even the most vulnerable people within our communities are falling through the cracks.”

Crisis, a national charity fighting to end homelessness, is campaigning for such a change. Jo Leonard, fund raising manager in Wales said: “Abolishing priority need seems to be working in Scotland and we can learn from there to try to influence Westminster and Wales”

There is growing awareness that people who are sleeping rough, who can’t afford to live without their parents or who are sofa surfing need help. “There is a public understanding that there is a need for the state to help people finding a home”, said Mathew Kennedy, Policy & Public Affairs officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing. Kennedy argues that there’s still a long way to go as “we have a housing crisis in Wales and the Government’s targets for house building are really ambitious. But we need that ambition to continue”.

The Minister, Rebecca Evans said she is not in favour of devolving the whole of welfare but she is putting pressure on Westminster, especially on measures that don’t require policy change.

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