New funding of up to £20m has been announced to help ensure that no-one in emergency shelter during the coronavirus crisis has to return to the streets or unsuitable accommodation.
The Welsh Government’s initial funding package of £10m has meant that over 800 people have been housed since lockdown began. Many of these people were previously forced to sleep rough on the streets or were ‘hidden homeless’ living precariously as ‘sofa surfers’ or in unsuitable temporary accommodation.
The Welsh Government said that it wanted to build on its success in housing the homeless to change its approach to homelessness for the long term.
Housing and Local Government Minister Julie James said that the collaborative effort of the sector to accommodate homeless people during the pandemic had been “incredible”.
“Getting over 800 people off the streets or away from unsuitable accommodation has not been easy but by working together we have made a big difference to the lives of these people,” she said.
“This does not, however, mean we have resolved homelessness in Wales. We have achieved a temporary reprieve, but it remains our goal to end homelessness and we will not see people forced back onto the streets.
“This crisis has provided us with a unique opportunity to change the services and change lives for the better and I am truly excited about this. This funding, together with the collaborative approach we have taken so far gives me confidence that we can now make a significant step towards achieving our goal of ending homelessness in Wales.”
Local authorities will be asked to draw up plans to transform services and the accommodation offer across Wales. The aim will be to help those currently in temporary accommodation to move on to a long term home and ensure dignified suitable options for those who face homelessness in the future. The additional funding, support and guidance will help them to achieve this.
Jon Sparkes, chair of the Homelessness Action Group and chief executive of Crisis, said that the homelessness were among the most exposed to coronavirus.
“Swift and decisive action early on by the Welsh Government, councils, Welsh public services and charities has successfully protected many people by providing emergency accommodation,” he said.
“This has been a very challenging time for many of us but it shows how much we can achieve by working together. We now need to urgently start the next phase of helping people into safe and secure homes, so that we don’t see people forced back onto the street or into unsafe temporary accommodation.
“The Welsh Government is taking very positive steps right now and as we move out of lockdown I look forward to seeing in due course the Welsh Government’s plan to prevent and end homelessness for good as the Homelessness Action Group recommended.”