Homeless shelters accused of “warehousing” vulnerable people

(Title Image: BBC Wales)

Should you donate tents to the homeless?

Recently, the Chief Executive of the Huggard Centre in Cardiff was quoted calling on the public not to donate tents to rough sleepers. Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda) asked whether the Welsh Government agreed with this?

“They seem to suggest that rough sleeping is a lifestyle choice, as opposed to being a consequence of austerity. The homeless people quoted in the story explained that shelters could be very dangerous, with a lack of security, lack of support, and substance abuse being rife. Many shelters end up warehousing people who have little supervision, and they can then go on to pose a problem for other people who are vulnerable.”
– Leanne Wood AM

Local Government & Housing Minister, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West), described it as “difficult” – though she understood the impulse to donate a tent in those circumstances. However, donating tents was encouraging behaviour and a lifestyle which makes accessing proper support more difficult; it was far better for them to be flagged up to the local authority so they can be directed towards help.

The Minister believes the best solution is a housing system that was fit for purpose – shelters and hostels can only ever be temporary.

“I completely agree with the statement about warehousing and so on. It’s completely unreasonable to expect somebody to go into a 15-bed hostel with people they don’t know, leaving their pet outside, for example, and cope with their substance misuse as well. For some people, that will not be the answer. For others, it is the answer temporarily, because they can access other services.”
– Local Government & Housing Minister, Julie James

Community Council finances

Following a critical report from the Wales Audit Office, Shadow Communities Minister, Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales) asked what conclusions the Minister had drawn:

“(The Auditor General) said the current standard of financial management in Government remains disappointing, as too many town and community councils in this financial year suffered qualified audit opinions, with the number of opinions doubling; that town and community councils continued to manage increasing sums of public money; that income continues to outstrip expenditure as reserves continue to increase; and the report concluded that a significant number of councils failed to comply with their statutory responsibilities for preparing their accounts and ensuring that proper arrangements are made for the statutory audit.”
– Shadow Communities Minister, Mark Isherwood

The Minister admitted that to date she’s only skim-read the auditor’s report, adding that there were many excellent town and community councils that others could learn from. She did, however, accept there were a number of issues around size, boundaries and governance and that a one-size-fits-all approach to the lowest tier of government may not work.

Self-Build Wales “still needs ironing out”

Last week, the Welsh Government announced a £40million programme to aid self-builders, backed by the Development Bank. Mark Reckless AM (Con, South Wales East) broadly welcomed the announcement but asked for some more details on how it would work.

In what she described as “a lawyer’s answer” the Minister said, for now, “it depends”.

The scheme would initially start on publicly-owned land. There was no confirmation on the detailed ins and outs of the scheme, but it’s likely to involve template houses which can be customised, with the process of financing self-build schemes depending on the individual, their finances and personal circumstances.

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