By Lowri Pitcher
Queen Street, the main shopping street in Cardiff, has seen a rising number of tents lined up in front of stores. The shelters have been donated by charities to homeless people in an attempt to provide some form of shelter and protection, yet causing controversies among shoppers and local business owners.
Kathryn Kelloway, a Cardiff Conservative councillor, urged the leader of Cardiff Council, Huw Thomas, to “tear down these tents.” On January 25th, she was suspended for her comments and later reinstated on January 29. Although the Conservative group distances themselves from Ms Kelloway’s statement, a spokeswoman said: “The tents must be removed as they deter rough sleepers from seeking safe accommodation and affects the reputation of the city centre.”
Similarly, the Labour cabinet member for Housing & Communities, Lynda Thorne, expressed that tents are “putting rough sleepers at risk. They [the homeless] are disengaging with services and many [are] missing vital health appointments.” Both Ms Thorne and Ms Kelloway have said that there is sufficient space in hostels to accommodate rough sleepers.
Two men who are currently sleeping in tents, Brummy and Smithy, explained why they choose the tents over support centres such as the Huggard, YMCA and The Wallich. Both claimed that there is no space for them in hostels because they are neither drug addicts nor alcoholics, and they are relatively healthy; therefore, they are not considered vulnerable and have only been offered floorspace at the Huggard. Brummy explains that his possessions and money were stolen when he took up the offer of floorspace, whereas he has never been robbed in his tent. Both express that they are on the waiting list for housing but they have no idea how long they will have to wait before their wish becomes a reality.
The tents have also caused issues for local businesses. On January 12, Bigmoose Coffee Co on Frederick Street made the decision to close temporarily. The company released a statement on Facebook stating: “The actions of a few people have affected and have the potential to affect many others, due to a number of tents being put up outside our premises, members of our teams are now feeling intimidated.” Another local business owner, Mr Evans, who runs a fruit and vegetable stand says that the tents are not a welcome sight for tourists and have a negative impact on staff morale.
Locals, business owners and the homeless themselves all agree that the council must react to the rising number of rough sleepers, but what is Cardiff Council doing? The Council’s Homeless Strategy 2018-2022 sets out their aim ‘to work with our partners to prevent homelessness, providing the right support at the right time to meet the housing needs of our citizens.’ Their aims include providing high quality housing advice services, preventing homelessness Time will tell whether their aims materialise