WREXHAM had the second highest number of rough sleepers in Wales during the latest Welsh Government study.
The national rough sleeper count released yesterday showed that in a two week monitoring exercise conducted by Wrexham Council in November an estimated 45 people were sleeping rough in the county.
According to the report this figure is the second highest in Wales, behind Cardiff which recorded an estimate of 92, but also a decrease on Wrexham’s previous year which estimated 61 rough sleepers.
The document goes on to explain that Wrexham’s reduction of an estimated 16 rough sleepers year-on-year is the most significant decrease across Wales, adding: “The reasons for the decrease between 2016 and 2017 varied from area to area, but included engagement with long-term rough sleepers through various projects and initiatives.”
The monitoring exercise, which was used to gather data from a variety of organisations and groups, was then followed up with a one night ‘snapshot’ count on Thursday, November 9.
A total of 44 people were recorded in Wrexham, which is an increase on the previous year’s snapshot of 27 people – and again the second highest in Wales behind Cardiff, which recorded 53.
Explaining the snapshot count’s result, the report states: “The largest increase was seen in Wrexham with 17 persons (63 per cent) more than in November 2016.
“This increase was mainly due to improved intelligence obtained on the location of those sleeping rough.”
The report states that last year the total number of emergency bed spaces for rough sleepers in Wrexham has remained the same as 2016 at 16.
By comparison the estimated number of rough sleepers in Flintshire during the two week exercise were two and the snapshot recorded one rough sleeper.
Denbighshire’s numbers were also relatively low by comparison with Wrexham, with the two week monitoring exercise estimating three and the snapshot recording none.
Nationally the estimate of rough sleepers in Wales during the two week monitoring exercise was 345 people, an increase of 10 per cent on 2016.
The national one night snapshot saw local authorities report 188 individuals observed sleeping rough – an increase of 33 per cent on 2016.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “The rise in rough sleeping across Wales is alarming. If left unchecked rough sleeping could double in the next 20 years, according to Crisis research.
“But we have evidence to show how this situation can be turned around, and call on Welsh Government to work with us to develop the solutions to end rough sleeping for good.
“Behind these numbers are many people forced to sleep in dangerous and freezing conditions. Rough sleeping ruins lives, leaving people vulnerable to violence and abuse, and takes a dreadful toll on mental and physical health.”
“Wales has made big steps in tackling homelessness in recent years and we are ready to work closely with Welsh Government to ensure people who have to sleep rough can get into a suitable home as early as possible. We know more than ever about what works to end rough sleeping, so now is the time to take swift action together to end it for good.”
Cllr David Griffiths, Wrexham Council’s lead member for housing, said: “Wrexham Council continues to work with a number of partners, including Cais, The Wallich and others, in order to ensure that support is provided to the homeless and rough sleepers.
“This support includes the weekly Crisis Café held for service users at the Salvation Army on Rhosddu Road, and the day-to-day support offered by our outreach workers and those of partner agencies.
“There will be a number of – often complex – reasons behind the increase in numbers, but we will continue to offer support to all those sleeping rough wherever possible.
“There are no plans to change the numbers of emergency beds provided.”
Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths said: “There is little doubt the UK Government’s continued pursuit of austerity has had a negative impact, both in Wrexham and across the country, and it is clear more work needs to be done.
“Tackling homelessness is a clear priority for the Welsh Government. Ambitious proposals to end youth homelessness by 2027 were outlined in the recent Budget announcement.
“The £10m funding boost will complement the £20m allocated over the next two years and is in addition to the £2.6m Wrexham Council received a share of last September.
“A number of factors can cause a person to become homeless but a multi-agency approach is key to addressing the issues. The Welsh Government is working with local authorities, housing associations and homeless agencies and I have met with local groups and charities which are working in partnership to provide support and help develop long-term solutions.”
Ian Lucas MP said: “I am very aware of the issue of rough sleeping in Wrexham. I asked for and helped secure additional funding from the Welsh Government last year to increase homeless provision and the council are providing this. I raise the issue with senior council officers and am meeting with local homeless people myself on a regular basis.
“This is a national problem which I see in Westminster every day. It has grown significantly recently and the UK Government has to take ultimate responsibility.
“I think one of the important things we need to get right is to co-ordinate the different approaches being taken in Wrexham – whether that is by the council, the health board, the police, local charities – or even private individuals.”