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Number of people at risk of homelessness in Swansea set to hit record levels

13 Dec 2022 3 minute read
Aerial photo of Swansea Civic Centre on Oystermouth Road

Richard Youle, local democracy reporter

More than 4,000 people are expected to present themselves as homeless to Swansea Council this year – the first time the figure would be reached.

This means they are at risk of homelessness, for example in the process of being evicted, not that they are sleeping rough.

Also for the first time, there are more than 200 individuals and families living in temporary accommodation in Swansea, with around 130 of those in bed and breakfasts.

That’s more than four times as many people in bed and breakfasts than in 2019-20.

The figures were contained in a report before the council’s scrutiny committee, which heard from housing officers and Cllr Andrea Lewis, whose cabinet brief includes housing, about various schemes to help people. Councillors were repeatedly warned that demand for housing was outstripping supply.

‘Incredibly high’ private rents

Steve Porter, the council’s community housing operations manager, said a reduction in the number of private rental rental properties, “incredibly high” private rents, and the Ukraine and cost-of-living crises were contributing to the problem.

Demand for social housing and one-bedroom accommodation, he said, was considerable – and the trends in Swansea were reflected nationwide.

“We are seeing the highest number of homeless people presenting than we’ve ever had, it’s going up and up,” he said.

Mr Porter said the council had helped 1,100 people move from temporary to more permanent accommodation since the Covid pandemic but, despite a number of successful projects to increase housing capacity, the challenges were significant.

“We can build as many properties as we like but what we can’t keep up with is demand,” he said.

Mr Porter stressed that very few families were placed in bed and breakfasts in Swansea – there were only two at present – and that there were constant efforts to try to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.

Rough sleepers

Citing the report, Cllr Wendy Fitzgerald said it seemed odd that some rough sleepers had a tenancy, and wondered if the council’s pledge to always provide someone with a bed might be attracting homeless people to the city.

Mr Porter said three of the eight people who slept rough in Swansea on the night of Monday, December 12, had somewhere to live. He said those three preferred to be with rough sleeper friends.

Rough sleeper numbers prior to the pandemic were 20 to 25 per night.

Mr Porter said homeless people from the outside the area came to Swansea because it was a city, not because of the council’s bed pledge. He added that housing officers tried to reconnect these people with their place of origin in the first instance.

One of the accommodation schemes the council operates – currently for 24 people – involves intensive support and advice to try to break the homelessness cycle.

Cllr Lyndon Jones asked what was being done to support prison leavers, as he said some Swansea Prison inmates used to “go down the road and smash a window to get back in” after leaving because they didn’t have anywhere to go.

Mr Porter said the council had an ex-offender officer helping prison leavers and that it was also liaising with homeless charity Crisis.

Cllr Lewis said housing officers and the teams they worked with were doing ” a fantastic job”.

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