South West Wales

Swansea churches offer shelter to rough sleepers

Homeless man on the streets
Image caption Rough sleepers will be offered a bed, food, and help to find a home

Churches in Swansea have launched a two month initiative to provide emergency accommodation for homeless people.

More than a 100 volunteers co-ordinated by six churches will take part in the project.

Church halls are being opened up to offer rough sleepers hot food and a bed for up to 28 days.

Project co-ordinator Mandy Harvey says it will provide short term security while the authorities help people look for more permanent accommodation.

Shared resources

The plan is backed by Swansea Hope, an organisation of local churches which promotes social action projects.

The six churches involved - which are not being identified publicly - will share responsibility to ensure that shelter is available seven days a week, with each church hall hosting a maximum of twelve rough sleepers a night.

Venues with heating and toilets will be selected for the initiative, with hot meals and airbeds provided.

Different halls will be used on successive nights, but transport between the various venues will be offered.

Mandy Harvey, co-ordinator of the Swansea Night Shelter project, said the aim was to give rough sleepers an alternative to the streets while they looked for somewhere to live.

"They'll have a hot meal, accommodation for the evening, and breakfast," she told BBC Radio Wales.

"Then they'll be sent on their way at eight o'clock in the morning and can turn up at the next venue at eight o'clock that night."

'Difficult hand'

Ms Harvey added that she had been "overwhelmed" by the number of volunteers willing to staff the halls and help tackle the growing problem of homelessness.

"Everyone is quick to make the judgement that it's always people with addictions that end up on the streets but actually it's people with normal life circumstances that have been thrown a difficult hand who can end up homeless," she said.

"All of us are guilty of making mistakes and why should we all be punished for those mistakes?

"This gives us an opportunity to help those who have just suffered."

The project aims to provide emergency accommodation for up to 28 days for individuals, who during that time would work with housing agencies and project leaders to find more permanent accommodation.

Organisers hope to help as many as 40 or 50 people over the next two months.

If the initiative proves successful, they plan to repeat the exercise in 2013 for three months.

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