By Anna Whitfield
As this year’s winter drew in, rough sleepers in Cardiff city centre took to propping up tents as a means for shelter whilst living on the streets. These tents have been the centre of much controversy over recent weeks, resulting in Cardiff Council announcing they would ‘take action’ as they were deterring people and pushing businesses in temporarily closing down. In due course, unoccupied tents have recently been removed from the streets of the city centre.
Cardiff Council is also issuing warnings to rough sleepers still living in tents, stating that if they do not engage with ‘offers for accomodation’ provided by homeless shelters, they will be forced to leave since they are “in breach of the Highways Act 1980 where it is an offence to obstruct free passage along a highway”. However, this approach has come under fire from Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru, who has criticised the council’s actions, claiming that ‘’a tent can be the difference between life and death’’. Moreover, many of Cardiff’s rough sleepers have expressed that they feel more comfortable living on the streets than in local shelters, which often house substance users and can be hostile environments.
In light of this, a new initiative is being brought to Cardiff. Inspired by a scheme developed by homeless charities in Bristol, it will see empty storage containers being converted into temporary homes for rough sleepers. The scheme works by selecting and approving homeless individuals to help in renovating the containers, giving them the opportunity to develop their skill set, who are then supported in the moving in and adjustment process.
Cardiff Council announced last year that a similar scheme was due to be established in association with Cadwyn Housing Association to set up 18 containers on Bute Street. The containers will again work under a similar scheme to the one outlined above, whereby the Council provides this temporary housing whilst the residents are given assistance in finding future permanent housing and employment. All throughout, the Council ensures any advice or medical assistance is on hand. In addition, these containers will be energy efficient units.
As part of this development programme, there are also plans underway to develop similar properties in Ely, an area of Western Cardiff, and eight family homes will additionally in the grounds of Greenfarm Hostel as temporary accommodation for the homeless of Cardiff and the surrounding areas.
This will be welcome news to many of Cardiff’s rough sleepers and citizens. Since 2015, there has been an unfortunate rise of 68% in applications for help from people already on the streets, and a rise in 103% of households at risk of becoming homeless. These new initiatives could not come at a better time with the number of those in need rising relentlessly.