Mid Wales

Downturn hits rural homeless harder, says charity

A homeless charity is warning that the effects of the economic downturn are being felt more in rural areas than in cities.

Ceredigion Care Society said it had helped more than 630 people in the last year, but had to turn others away.

It believes the problem is more acute in areas such as Ceredigion where public sector employment is important.

Shelter Cymru said there had been rise in homelessness and research suggested it could be hidden in rural areas.

Ceredigion Care Society helps people who are homeless, living in substandard accommodation or in need of welfare advice.

The society also runs a night shelter in Aberystwyth.

It is mainly funded by the Welsh government and works closely with Ceredigion council and other statutory and voluntary agencies.

Its director Guy Evans said: "Other than the public sector for example, one of the biggest employers is self-employed builders - there's a small army of self-employed builders in Ceredigion.

"It's very difficult if there are no mortgages to be had, no lending to be had (and) people haven't got building to do.

"It's very difficult to diversify and we are seeing a lot of people from that sector, for example, coming to us looking for help."

Max Taylor was homeless and unemployed, but he now lives with his fiancee. He said Ceredigion Care Society helped him to turn his life around.

"They helped me sort out my benefits and change of address when I did find somewhere," he said.

"They got me back on my feet. I don't know where I'd be without them, probably still on the streets."

Homeless charity Shelter Cymru said rural homelessness was not a new problem.

"Across the country at the moment we see quite a dramatic rise in official homelessness," said its director John Puzey.

Recession

"That varies across Wales but certainly rural areas have seen that growth as well.

"I think the problem is that in many ways homelessness is almost hidden in rural areas.

"There's a lot of research which suggest people living in rural areas are less likely to present themselves as homeless."

He said Ceredigion Care Society had made a good point about the impact of the recession, and he warned that future welfare and housing benefit cuts could have a disproportionate affect on rural areas.

In general, the number of households accepted as homeless has been falling since July 2006, although figures have seen an increase over the last year, according to the Welsh government's website.

During January to March, 1,655 households were accepted as homeless, which is an increase of 13% on the same quarter of 2010.

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