Homeless claims rise in Wales for second year in row

Charities say the true number of homeless people could be much higher

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The number of people in Wales claiming help from councils for homelessness has gone up for the second year running.

Figures obtained by BBC Wales show more than 19,000 people said they had nowhere to live, a rise of about 27% on the previous year.

The Welsh government says it aims to address the issue with the forthcoming housing bill.

However, charities and housing experts say the plans may not go far enough and there could be further homelessness.

Figures supplied to the BBC show councils across Wales had 19,530 calls for help from homeless people in the 12 months to March 2012.

JODI JONES'S DILEMMA

Jodi Jones

Jodi Jones is in temporary accommodation in Cardiff with her 11-month-old daughter after leaving home when she was five months pregnant.

"I was living at my mum's house," she said.

"It was my mum, my brother and me. I just couldn't bring a baby into a small house.

"I didn't want to be in a hostel knowing I was going to be there when I had the baby.

"I did not want that for my daughter or myself."

In the previous financial year, the 22 local authorities dealt with 15,324 cases of homelessness.

The Welsh government releases its figures on homelessness based on the judgments councils reach on the validity of the cases they handle.

In the last financial year, ministers accepted 6,515 people as homeless in Wales.

Figures also suggest more than £8m was spent on temporary accommodation during that period, which includes any housing benefit payment made by the UK government.

Housing charities say with further changes to housing and council tax benefits due to take effect next year, the situation could become worse.

Welsh Local Government Association spokesman Dyfed Edwards said Wales could face a significant increase in homelessness levels over the next three years.

He said: "Since 2009, homelessness has been on the rise in Wales and while local government is working hard to counter this trend, the numbers of people who find themselves at risk of being made homeless will increase further over the next few years."

Mr Edwards said the problems councils faced were the poor economic climate, an undersupply of affordable homes and UK government welfare reforms.

Emergency accommodation

Start Quote

2013 will undoubtedly see more of the same, and charities and organisations... will all be expected to do more with less”

End Quote Bruce Diggins Rough Sleepers Cymru

Bruce Diggins, chair of Rough Sleepers Cymru and a regional manager for housing charity The Wallich, said the rises reported by councils were "no surprise".

He said: "We are seeing a year-on-year rise in rough sleeping numbers in almost all areas where we provide an outreach service.

"Despite the emergency accommodation being provided - emergency night shelters, emergency bed spaces, churches involvement, etc - we are still seeing people being forced to sleep rough.

"2013 will undoubtedly see more of the same, and charities and organisations like The Wallich and Rough Sleepers Cymru as well as local authorities we work with will all be expected to do more with less."

Cardiff University lecturer Dr Peter Mackie, who led a review of homelessness for the government, said his own research suggests the actual figure of people homeless in Wales could be as many as 25,000.

He told BBC Radio Wales household income has not been keeping up with the cost of living but the more significant problem has been changes to welfare benefits affecting the number of people becoming homeless.

"The worrying thing there is we have probably only seen 20% of those cuts and changes coming in so the increase we have seen to date is probably going to carry on," he said.

A Welsh government spokesperson said figures showed that the number of households accepted as homeless by councils is down in the latest quarter compared to the same period in the previous year.

But, he said: "While economic prospects remain uncertain across the UK, and with further spending cuts and welfare changes proposed by the UK government, we believe the spectre of homelessness will continue to loom large for many over the coming years.

"This is why we announced additional funding to support projects to prevent homelessness earlier this month, and why we continue to work tirelessly with local authorities and partners such as Shelter Cymru to help people prepare for, and combat, the effects of changes to the benefit system, rising fuel bills and increasing rents."

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