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Minister launches ‘Ending Homelessness Action Plan’ with new funding for private rented sector to play their part

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The Welsh Government say their commitment to end homelessness will be made clear in the Senedd later today as Climate Change Minister Julie James launches the Ending Homelessness Action Plan.

The Minister, who says that when homelessness occurs it should be ‘rare, brief and unrepeated’, will also announce a new £30million funding pot over five years for local authorities. 

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Under the Private Rented Sector Leasing Scheme, private property owners will be encouraged to lease their properties to local authorities in return for a rent guarantee and additional funding to improve the condition of their property.

Local authorities can then use these properties to provide affordable and good quality homes for people who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

Tenants will benefit from the security of long-term tenures of between five to 20 years and help to maintain their stay in a long-term home, such as mental health support or debt and money management advice.

This sits alongside the Welsh Government’s ambitious plan to build 20,000 low carbon, good quality and affordable homes for rent over the next five years.

The Homelessness Action Plan builds on the unprecedented work undertaken by local authorities, social landlords, public services and third sector partners, who have provided accommodation and support for more than 15,000 people experiencing or threatened with homelessness during the pandemic.

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The Plan has been shaped by the recommendations of the independent expert Homelessness Action Group, reflecting the changes required to prevent homelessness and make the shift to rapid rehousing so that people are in temporary accommodation for the shortest possible time.

The plan makes clear the need to prevent the problems that lead to homelessness from happening in the first place so homelessness can finally be ended in Wales.

The causes of homelessness extend well beyond access and availability of affordable homes. Ending homelessness is a cross-sector, cross-government priority relevant to health, social services, education, criminal justice, community services and our wider economy.

All this is recognised within the Action Plan, as is the need for wide-reaching legislative and policy reform.

Yesterday the Minister met Jonathan Lewis, 42, from Swansea. Jonathan has overcome huge challenges throughout his childhood, teenage and adult life and has finally been able to find and thrive in a secure home.

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As an adult, Jonathan found himself sofa surfing or sleeping in his car for extended periods of his life.

After receiving a network of support, Jonathan now lives in a good quality and affordable one bedroom home rented to him by Caredig, and works full-time for the Wallich, helping homeless people like he once was, into supported housing.

Jonathan says: “The last few years have been the hardest and most rewarding I have ever had.

“I’ve never had a house, I’ve never had my own property – it’s given me the push I needed – it’s given me something I don’t want to lose. Someone has put that trust in me, that I’m worthy enough to have something decent in life.

“I pinch myself that I’ve come from a bedsit to something so beautiful. I used to sofa surf or sleep in my car, but now I have my own home. And I pay for this with the money I earn. It makes me really proud. I keep it spotless!

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“In my new job I support people in the situation that I’ve also been in, to show them that life can be different and here’s how to make it better. I just want to help people like I’ve been helped.”

Minister for Climate Change Julie James said: “Meeting Jonathan today – who really is an inspiration – just shows the importance to every-one of a decent, affordable and stable home. As well as all the hard work Jonathan has put in, services have worked together to give him the support he needs. This means Jonathan is now in a good position to provide this support to others facing hardship and potential homelessness.

“I want to say thank you again for the extraordinary work of those working in homelessness and housing support services across local authorities, registered social landlords and the third sector. Each and every day they work to help and support those without a home.  They transform lives, they offer hope and they have undoubtedly saved many lives throughout this pandemic. They should be proud of all they have done and continue to do. My priority now is to build on our successes to prevent homelessness and ensure that when it does, it is rare, brief and unrepeated”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “It was a privilege to meet Jonathan today and hear how after being supported into his own home, he has truly flourished. Everyone should have that same opportunity, so we welcome this bold and vital plan to end homelessness in Wales. 

“The Welsh Government-led response to the pandemic has not only delivered decisive action to prevent and reduce homelessness during the public health emergency but has laid strong foundations for ensuring the long-lasting, positive impact of the progress made over recent years.  

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“This plan rightly recognises that the work done to ensure no one is left out of support must continue, as must the joined-up approach across services in ending homelessness as a public health issue. It shows how we can put the measures in place to prevent homelessness wherever possible and respond as quickly as possible when people lose their homes. We look forward to working with the Welsh Government, councils, health services and other charities in putting it into action.”

Liz Green, Consultant in Public Health, Policy and International Health at Public Health Wales, and co-author of new Health Impact Assessment report, ‘No place like home?’, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic, and measures to reduce transmission of the virus, has had many wide-ranging impacts on the population of Wales, and has led to many people spending more time in their homes, highlighting the importance of good quality, affordable and secure housing.

“The need for security in relation to having, and keeping, a home and being surrounded by a safe and consistent home environment, and its impact on both physical and mental health and well-being has long been recognised. During times of uncertainty, such as in the COVID-19 pandemic, a home can provide a secure and stable base for individuals and households in order to help them live and work through and ultimately recover from the pandemic and its effects.

“The action plan will be timely for tackling inequalities, particularly those exacerbated by the pandemic.”

Jonathan’s Story

Jonathan Lewis, 42

Jonathan had a shaky start in life. His much-loved ‘Nana’, who he lived with alone, sadly passed away when Jonathan was just seven. He then experienced domestic violence within his family home at a young age.

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He was exposed to shoplifting and petty crime in his day-to-day life growing up. Jonathan’s step-dad even used to take him on outings to break into cars at night. Though he says he has fond memories [aged eight] of eating beans on toast in the police station with his brother after his step-dad had been arrested, he ponders over how it all felt ‘completely normal’ to him at the time.

Jonathan put himself into care at 12 years old when home became ‘too much to handle’. As a result of this early trauma, he started using drugs.

At aged 15, Jonathan was sent to a young offenders’ institute for the first time.

Though Jonathan had briefly settled at aged 20 to have children, without support to address his early trauma he continued to use drugs to numb the pain of his past.

His mental ill health resulting from his past trauma were further compounded by homelessness, as he found himself sofa surfing and sleeping in his car. He was at an all-time low aged 30. Jonathan turned to heroin to self-medicate, resulting in further offending- for which Jonathan is very remorseful- and a longer spell in prison.

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In prison, Jonathan worked hard, with access to support, to turn his life around. He signed up to a twelve-step drugs recovery programme and soon gained qualifications after taking part in cookery and other courses that were offered to him.

On leaving prison, Jonathan was helped to access supported housing for people dealing with past trauma and mental ill health, and picked up work here and there in kitchens and on building sites.

In 2018, Jonathan was given the keys to his new home. A one-bedroom property leased to him by Caredig.

Thanks to his determination, access to stable housing and support to address his early trauma, he’s been able to turn his life around.

Now, Jonathan works full-time for The Wallich, where he helps people experiencing homelessness, just like he did, into a permanent home, with the support they need to fulfil their potential.

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Jonathan says: “The last few years have been the hardest of my life as I’ve had to mentally adjust. I don’t have drugs to numb the pain anymore so I have to face head on what has happened to me and the impact I have had on others too. They’ve been the hardest but the most rewarding I have ever had.

“I’ve never had a home, I’ve never had my own property – it’s given me the push I needed – it’s given me something I don’t want to lose. Someone has put that trust in me, that I’m worthy enough to have something decent in life.

“I pinch myself that I’ve come from a bedsit to something so beautiful. I used to sofa surf or sleep in my car, but now I have my own home. And I pay for this with the money I earn. It makes me really proud. I keep it spotless!

“In my new job I support people in the situation that I’ve also been in, to show them that life can be different and here’s how to make it better. I have so much thanks for all the people that have given me a chance, trusted and enabled me to turn my life around. Now I just want to help people like I’ve been helped.”

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