A £20m fund will be made available to prevent rough sleepers returning to Wales’ streets after the Covid-19 pandemic, Housing and Local Government Minister Julie James said.
James made the announcement today ahead of a virtual summit on homelessness with local authorities in which she asked them to draw up ‘phase two’ plans to transform services and accommodation to help those currently in emergency accommodation move to a long-term home.
So far the Welsh Government’s initial funding package of £10m has meant that over 800 people have been housed since lockdown began to protect them from the virus.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic we’ve helped over 800 people gain secure accommodation.
We’re investing £20m to ensure those in emergency shelter during the pandemic don’t have to return to the streets or unsuitable accommodation.
— Welsh Government (@WelshGovernment) May 28, 2020
Like the UK Government, there is a commitment to halting a return to the mass rough sleeping days prior to the lockdown. And Welsh ministers have stated that they want to build on the success they have had so far to change the approach to homelessness in the long-term.
James told councils that funding, support and guidance will be on hand to help them achieve this as she said: “We will expect to see creativity, partnership and a willingness to invest in these programmes, which will bring long-term savings and benefits to our public services as well as the potential to transform the lives of the individuals involved.”
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The Welsh Labour politician continued: “The collaborative effort of the sector to accommodate homeless people during the pandemic has been incredible. Getting over 800 people off the streets or away from unsuitable accommodation has not been easy but by working together we have made a big difference to the lives of these people.
“This does not, however, mean we have resolved homelessness in Wales. We have achieved a temporary reprieve, but it remains our goal to end homelessness and we will not see people forced back onto the streets.
“This crisis has provided us with a unique opportunity to change the services and change lives for the better and I am truly excited about this. This funding, together with the collaborative approach we have taken so far gives me confidence that we can now make a significant step towards achieving our goal of ending homelessness in Wales.”
We also need to take this opportunity to deliver lasting change in Wales
Chair of the Homelessness Action Group and Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes has welcomed the “swift and decisive action” in Wales and has stressed that the next phase of helping people into safe and secure homes must “start urgently”.
The director of Welsh homelessness charity Cymorth Cymru Katie Dalton has also added her support to the announcement.
She said: “Homelessness and housing-related support services have done an incredible job over the past two months, helping around 800 people into emergency accommodation to protect them from COVID-19.
“However, it is absolutely vital that people are provided with longer term housing and multi-agency support to ensure that they never return to homelessness.
“We also need to take this opportunity to deliver lasting change in Wales, transforming our systems and services so that homelessness is rare — and when it does take place, people are treated with dignity and have rapid access to long term housing and support.
“We’re delighted that the Housing Minister has built on her decisive and values-led response to this pandemic by announcing £20million and a plan to support this transformation. We’re really looking forward to working with our members and partners to help deliver it.”
Julie James penned a piece written exclusively for The Big Issue earlier this month to outline how the Welsh Government had responded the Covid-19 crisis.