Michael Sheen ‘ashamed’ of rising homelessness in Wales

Sheen urges the Welsh First Minister to address the country's rising numbers of rough sleepers, as ITV Wales shines a spotlight on the homelessness crisis

Michael Sheen has delivered a powerful plea to the Welsh Government to tackle rising homelessness in his homeland.

The actor and activist demanded First Minister Carwyn Jones provides more help for the growing number of people sleeping rough in Cardiff and other towns and cities across Wales.

Sheen said: “If you are not prepared to stand up and show brave leadership about supporting the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our society… then who is? Who’s speaking for that Wales?”

Michael Sheen speaks with ITV Cymru Wales

The number of rough sleepers in Cardiff has doubled in the past three years. The star said the spike made him “feel ashamed.”

Sheen was speaking as part of ITV Wales’ week-long special coverage of the homelessness crisis.

Andrea Byrne, presenter of Wales This Week, spent 24 hours on the streets of Cardiff speaking to people without a home.

“I was struck by how many different kinds of individual stories there are,” she told The Big Issue. “The amazing response to our coverage shows how passionate and engaged people are with this issue.”

Byrne’s programme Wales This Week found all 216 hostel bed spaces in Cardiff were often full up, forcing others to seek a final few emergency places or sleep on the streets.

Iain Ephram, co-ordinator at Cardiff Council said 58 new rough sleepers had been identified in only six weeks. “Clearly the options we have (for emergency accommodation) have to increase.”

Many of The Big Issue’s vendors say they don’t like to stay in hostels because they are often chaotic places where drug abuse occurs. Byrne heard similar stories.

“It seems people who are trying to recover from alcohol and substance misuse don’t like to go there because they don’t want to exacerbate their habit,” she said.

“The council and hostels are trying to do their best within the system as it is, but the resources are stretched.”

It’s crucial we see what can be done to help vulnerable people before they reach they the point they don’t have a roof over their head

Byrne said the preventing people from becoming homelessness in the first place – something Big Issue founder Lord John Bird has repeatedly emphasised – was vital.

“It’s crucial we see what can be done to help vulnerable people before they reach they the point they don’t have a roof over their head,” she said. “Nobody wants to see people in that situation.”

Michael Sheen said he found it “incredibly concerning” that the Welsh Government was discussing cuts to the Supporting People grants that fund both emergency and supported, “move-on” accommodation for homeless people to stop them falling back onto the streets.