Homeless Crisis: Plaid Councillor Steve Skivens Gives His View

08/01/2020

The Welsh Government has launched a hidden homeless initiative this week covering people who are staying on a friend's sofa, in a hostel or a night shelter, rather than sleeping rough on the streets.

Plaid Cymru councillor Steve Skivens, who represents Penyrheol, Trecenydd and Energlyn, gives his view on the homeless crisis after seeing the extent of the problem while on a leisure visit to Cardiff. Caerphilly is not immune from the issue of homelessness.

I was recently in Cardiff on a late Sunday evening for a New Year's treat of cinema and dinner with my son, which was great. I rarely visit Cardiff or other cities late into the evenings.

However, what astonished me was the amount of people witnessed as living on the streets. The sheer numbers, condition of some and the degree of vulnerability of others was a complete shock.

At one collection point near a Cardiff church there was literally 100 people waiting for food delivery.

I and many other people have observed persons who appear to live on the streets in their areas. However, given the generally near deserted streets of our Welsh capital the amount of people was obvious. Some seem established; if that’s a suitable assessment with tents, sheeting and boxes others huddled with nothing at all and dressed in what would only be normal evening attire not suitable for a night outside and inclement weather.

I know from my years of activities with the Citizens Advice Bureau there are many complex and convoluted circumstances as to how people end up in these situations. Also, of the volunteers and charities who do try very hard to support this growing group of needy people. But there is a fundamental question here as to whether we as a society or community are,we prepared to watch our citizens slip into a social underclass? Almost invisible to many, bypassed by several and derided by the negative people amongst us.

All these people have or had close families, friends, occupations and a social life. Much of this has been washed away, fundamentally altered or no longer accessible to them. Their personal circumstances have changed, their lives are now vulnerable, unhealthy and life expectations are greatly reduced.

It seems unbelievable that this week we see an initiative launched to identify those who are hidden as technically homeless and sofa surfing or other similar acronyms, when a walk around Cardiff on a Sunday evening shows clearly the scale of the identifiable problem. Perhaps our senior politicians need to take the short walk from the bay to the city centre to get in touch with reality.

The whole experience I found very very concerning and I intend to continue to try and understand the whole issue and see where I can assist.

I hope others may look up from their phone, IPad or TV screens to see what is actually going on in our society. After some 70 years of Labour Party control in Wales and the whole-time leadership of the Senedd by Labour; are we admitting the failure of socialism or abject failure of the Labour party?

We all need to take a fresh look at this issue and re-engage with our citizens in need.