Homeless people in Wales need a more joined up system which provides more suitable accommodation and better support, according to a Senedd Committee report.
The Local Government and Housing Committee explored the issues facing people who are homeless in Wales and found that they faced a myriad of barriers to them getting back on their feet.
No one left out
Since the early days of the pandemic, the Welsh Government operated a ‘no one left out’ approach to homelessness where everyone who needs shelter is given it.
The Committee heard that the success of this policy, which has helped many people who would previously have fallen through the cracks, has inadvertently put a huge amount of strain on the system – especially in temporary housing.
Unsuitable temporary accommodation
One of the most concerning pieces of evidence the Committee received was the unsuitability of the temporary accommodation offered to people facing homelessness.
Due to the lack of accommodation, the report describes how recovering substance users are often expected to share facilities with active users which often leads to people choosing to sleep rough to remove themselves from the situation.
Wayne, 52, has first-hand experience of being in - and waiting for - temporary accommodation. He said, “When you’ve hit rock bottom and there’s no one there to help you, it’s a stark horrifying reality.
“I’ve been on the streets since I was 15 and I’ve been in many different hostels over the years. It was good to get off the street but there’s no support, you’re just housed, that’s it. There’s no counselling to talk through what’s going on and there’s no support for addiction.
“It was only when I finally got that proper help that I managed to get back on my feet. I’ve got my own flat now, I’ve stopped using drugs and I’ve got my daughter back in my life.”
A lack of one-bedroom homes is cited as a significant reason for peoples’ long stays in temporary accommodation. Especially if the individual needs extra support, sharing a house with other people is often not a viable option.
The Committee heard that the reason for this lack is housing developers prioritising building more profitable, larger houses over smaller units. The report calls on the Welsh Government to urgently explore all options that would increase the availability of one-bedroomed accommodation in Wales.
Lack of facilities and communication
Housing options for people with complex needs such as addiction is hard to come by, and many local authorities – who manage public housing provision across Wales - explained that all types of temporary accommodation are currently full and that they are having to use B&Bs and hotels.
This has led to whole families being ‘housed’ in single hotel rooms. Not only is it cramped and offers little privacy; but those expected to live there have no access to kitchens or have a limited internet connection.
Tai Pawb told the Committee that the use of refuges and hostels has increased by 18 per cent, whilst the use of B&Bs as temporary accommodation has increased by over 474 per cent.
Many are expected to stay in temporary accommodation for months, with no updates on how long it will be before they’re able to secure more suitable, permanent housing.
The report urges the Welsh Government to work with local authorities to better communicate people’s housing status to them and how long their stay is likely to be to avoid people being left ‘in limbo’.
John Griffiths MS, Chair of the Local Government and Housing Committee, said, “There are thousands of people in Wales who are homeless but, unfortunately, the support and accommodation being offered to them is in need of considerable improvement.
“Time after time, we heard deeply concerning stories of families living in single hotel rooms for months with no idea when they would receive a suitable home. On top of this, the staff on the ground – who are supporting extremely vulnerable people and dealing with complex situations every day - are at breaking point.”
“The Welsh Government’s “no-one left out” approach should be commended, and the policy has undoubtedly saved many lives, but the fact is, we are now seeing a lot of problems. Fundamentally, the real cause of homelessness is the lack of social housing in the country.
“We know that there isn’t a simple solution to fix the numerous problems in the system, but the current situation is unsustainable. If the problems identified in this report are going to be adequately addressed, then the Welsh Government needs to give very careful consideration to the Committee’s recommendations.”