I was in Cardiff this morning when I read reports of concerns in Wrexham over rough sleeping on school fields and elsewhere. It is a sad and continuing story, but from my perspective in the capital three things occur to me.
Firstly, the problem is not confined to Wrexham. Homelessness is a growing phenomenon in our capital city and in most urban centres across England and Wales. The above is a photo I captured this morning in Cardiff’s busiest shopping street, and I could have taken 30 more. The situation was almost inevitable given spending constraints, but I believe the issue has also been accentuated by a downturn in compassion and provision for those at the margins of society.
Secondly, a proper response to the problem needs to be well thought through, co-ordinated and designed (a) to help the individuals concerned and (b) to improve the situation for everyone else who frequents affected areas. As it happens, significant attention has been paid to the situation in Wrexham. The local authority is working with CAIS and other agencies to address both parts of the problem. It is early days, but proper and long-lasting solutions are being developed.
Thirdly, I believe the situation doesn’t benefit from simply providing unfettered handouts to street homeless individuals. The sad likelihood is that they will consume the food and then spend what other resources they have on drink and drugs. Welfare support needs to be combined with robust attempts to engage the individuals concerned and direct them into the range of services that actually are available. Simple donations are highly likely to induce individuals to continue to hang around the area. This is in nobody’s interests, least of all those sleeping rough.
So finger-pointing and recriminations are not helpful at this time. This is a growing problem which won’t go away any time soon. Statutory, voluntary and community organisations will have most impact when they work together. This applies in Wrexham, Cardiff and just about everywhere else as far as I can see.