OUR Freedom of Information request to Cardiff council has revealed that, at the time of asking, it had counted 34 people sleeping rough, 240 single homeless people not in temporary accommodation and 1,341 people in temporary accommodation waiting for a permanent home.
But how accurate are these numbers and what do they actually mean?
34 Rough Sleepers
The numbers of rough sleepers varies from day to day. Counts tend to be limited to city centres and won’t catch rough sleepers in residential areas. Cardiff-based homeless charity The Wallich conducts its own count.
Will Atkinson, Policy and research Officer for The Wallich said: “It is not uncommon for rough sleepers to hide from harassment by members of the public. We can only count people we can see.”
In 2014 the Welsh Government did an all-Wales count of rough sleepers, their numbers were lower than the Wallich’s count.
Mr Atkinson said: “We know they’re undercounting but we have no idea by how much. It’s impossible to get completely accurate numbers.”
240 single homeless people not in temporary accommodation
If you find yourself homeless the council housing options team will assess you. If you are genuinely homeless they will decide if you are a priority case, such as people with children, or those who are physically or mentally ill. Priority cases are placed in temporary accommodation. Non-priority cases are helped to find their own housing.
Many homeless people do not spend every night on the street. They might sometimes sleep on friends’ sofas, spend some nights at shelters and sometimes sleep outdoors. A lot of these people are fleeing abusive relationships at home. The council can only count people who have asked for help, there may be many more people in similar situations who the council do not know about.
1,341 people in temporary accommodation
Cardiff council has 550 temporary accommodation places where homeless families and single people can live while they wait to move into permanent housing. One “unit” of accommodation could house a single person or a family and people enter and leave daily.
Temporary accommodation can mean hostels, social housing or private rentals and it is paid for through housing benefits. Roughly two-thirds is rented from private landlords.
Will Atkinson from The Wallich said: “Private rents are higher than social rents, sometimes considerably higher, and as housing benefit is capped many of these properties are well out of the reach of those on benefits or other low incomes.
“The private sector is much less strictly regulated than the social housing sector and this can lead to standards being poor. Cuts to local government budgets have made it even harder for the housing departments in councils to enforce environmental health regulations so many properties remain sub-standard.
“Tenants may also fear eviction and so do not complain to the council about issues with their home.”
The council aims to get people into permanent social housing within 12 months but there are currently 6,623 people on the waiting list. Mr Atkinson said: “As we go deeper and deeper into the housing crisis people are spending longer and longer and longer while they wait for housing.
Mr Lawrence Neale, homeless legal process manager for Cardiff council said about 80 people who have been in temporary accommodation longer than nine months.
Once the council has offered someone permanent accommodation its duty of care is fulfilled and the person must move out of temporary accommodation. Permanent accommodation can be a six-month private tenancy.
Mr Neale said: “A lot of the accommodation we have is for vulnerable people. A lot of those vulnerable people have health problems or drug problems. It’s not always ideal where we place people. We have limited accommodation.”