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‘Technically homeless’

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LH270516_Page_05_Image_0005SHE MAY not be the only one in Llanelli or Carmarthenshire who describes themselves this way.

The truth is that nobody really knows how many people are homeless in the county. While there are figures for people in temporary accommodation and figures for those waiting for housing. the figures for ‘homelessness’ are less well-defined.

A person can be homeless while sofa-surfing or staying with mates from night to night with no permanent address of their own.

Sitting in the graveyard of Llanelli Parish church Daisy begins by telling us how she became homeless. She admits that some of it was of her own doing but also says that the issues with the authorities played a part in her current plight: “I was doing well for myself, keeping out of trouble for about sixteen years.

“A neighbour moved in and I couldn’t cope with it. He was getting aggressive and banging doors in the early hours of the morning. He wasn’t dealt with by anyone.

“I saved up some money to move but it wasn’t enough. I started shop lifting. I went through some bad stuff and I made a complaint to the police.”

Daisy showed us some of the documents relating to her complaint. She said she only wanted to get away from a bad neighbour but she was told to go back to the property but was eventually evicted. Daisy has made a complaint to the group, Civil Liberties regarding her arrest.

She told us: “I came back to this area because I had nowhere else to go. I thought I might be able to see my children. I have lost everything. All my possessions including my ID have gone. I have asked for them back and I have asked my probation officer to help me get them back.”

As we were speaking to Daisy another man passed by and said hello to Daisy. I asked her if he was also homeless. She confirmed that he was sleeping rough but would not speak to us. She said some of the causes of homelessness include high rents and a lack of opportunities for getting out of a rut.

Speaking about her own situation Daisy told us: “My prospects are really bad. I have temporary accommodation now and they gave me some tins of food from the food bank, but I don’t have any saucepans.

“There are quite a few homeless people in Llanelli. You see them with their rucksacks around town. There is a place down Station Road that gives them food.

“I am not entitled to social housing because I am in arrears. It was under £500 but I still got evicted. They never gave me a form with an option to pay those arrears. They told me they were not going through with an eviction.

“My rent jumped from £435 to £900. I have asked for the paper work to look at. I could not afford that. I have been sitting in town and I do get hassled. I would get charged with a public order offence.

“I have to try and find private housing. I can claim £317 per month. I can’t find anywhere affordable to live for £317 per month. The lowest priced property I have seen is £425 per month. I haven’t got any money now.

Basically I have nothing. Some of it was of my own doing. I suffered because they put me in a place next to a terrible neighbour. Nobody wanted to listen. I had an abusive husband. The last thing I needed was an abusive neighbour.”

The Herald contacted The Big Issue and Shelter Cymru.

Jenny Bibbings is the campaigns manager for Shelter Cymru. We asked Jenny if she had any accurate figures for the number of homeless people in Wales and specifically in Carmarthenshire.

“I am not entirely sure of the figures in Carmarthenshire. There is a mobile worker who covers the Carmarthenshire area. The law on homelessness changed in April last year. All the stats have changed as well. It now considers households found homeless, roofless, sofa surfing and suffering from over crowding.”

We asked Jenny what the current position is on the definition of homelessness.

“It used to be that you had to be threatened with homelessness within 28 days, now that has doubled to 56 days. In England, the Department for Communities and Local Government is currently considering adopting the Welsh system.

Before the law changed in Wales, homelessness prevention was not within the law. There were no rights attached to it. It is now statutory for councils to do what they reasonably can to prevent a person becoming homeless through prevention work. In the past if you didn’t fit into the priority need criteria you didn’t get the help, which meant that single homeless people were most at risk of falling through the safety net.

Speaking about what support is available to people like Daisy she said: “Everybody should be getting a decent level of assistance for somewhere to live. The numbers are going up. There is monitoring but it isn’t brilliant. You have seen more than that by walking around Llanelli.

“We have seen a lot of welfare reforms making it more difficult for people to stay housed. Benefits don’t cover minimum rent and bedroom tax. A lot of homelessness is caused by simple life events.

“When you lose your home it is difficult to get it back. There is nowhere near enough social housing to go around. Private sector accommodation is all that is available. Landlords don’t want to let to people on benefits. We see people from all walks of life.

“The homeless figure is around 16,000 people across Wales. The cost of housing is a major factor. Rent arrears is the biggest issue because we have the most expensive housing in Europe. Increases in evictions from social housing coupled with court costs have doubled debt for people.”

Jenny Bibbings singled out Carmarthenshire County Council as having a very good team dealing with homelessness but she said that she was worried about the impending cuts to services within the authority, which she said would impact on the most vulnerable.”

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The Burry Port Harbour Improvement wins top civil engineering award

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THE BURRY Port Harbour Improvement has been announced as the winner of the Bill Ward Sustainability Award at the recent ICE Wales Cymru Project Awards held on Friday (30 September) at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff.

The Bill Ward Award is presented to the project best demonstrating the principles of sustainability, i.e. social, economic and environmental benefits during delivery and on completion. The Judges were impressed with the way two major companies, Alun Griffiths and Atkins, worked hand in hand on the project with their client, Carmarthenshire County Council, to deliver the scheme to a fixed budget, within programme and to the complete satisfaction of historic port custodians Cadw.

Burry Port Harbour is made up of three historic (tidal) basins contained by vertical masonry walls and earth embankments. The 3 harbours comprise 1500m of masonry vertical walls and revetments, which had fallen into disrepair and collapse since its heyday transporting coal in the 1800’s. 

The project is an ongoing, phased renovation with attention being given first to areas of instability. Displaced masonry has been recovered from the floor of the harbour and re-used. New materials have been chosen with care to ensure they are appropriate and will fit into the historic marine.

The work has safeguarded the historic masonry fabric for future generations, provided a safe harbour for the marina vessels and provided the waterside frontage for the Council’s vision to transform the harbour into a dynamic living, leisure and work hub for future generations.

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Wales stands firm in support for Ukraine

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IN THE latest update on the Ukraine crisis, Wales’s Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt thanked all those households across Wales who have come forward to offer their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the War and encouraged more households to provide this vital support.

APPEAL FOR MORE HOST FAMILIES

The Minister for Social Justice said: “I’m delighted to say that over 5,650 people from Ukraine, sponsored by the Welsh Government and Welsh households, have already arrived in the UK.
“More than 8,200 visas have now been issued to people from Ukraine who have sponsors in Wales, so we expect the number of arrivals to continue to grow in the coming weeks.
“Thousands of Welsh households sponsored Ukrainians to arrive in Wales and committed to hosting them for at least six months.
“As we move into the autumn, we approach the end of that initial period.
“We hope hosts and Ukrainians will agree to extend many of those placements, but we need additional hosts to support those who cannot continue living where they are.
“To ensure a warm welcome to Wales, I’m inviting households across Wales to come forward and open their homes to welcome those seeking sanctuary.
“We’re immensely thankful to all those across Wales acting as hosts to Ukrainians, but more households must come forward.
“I completely understand that there are those who want to help but may not have the resources to do so, given the circumstances we’re all facing with the cost-of-living crisis.”

WALES WILL STEP UP TO THE PLATE

Jane Hutt continued: “What we all know, and has been proven countless times, is that the people of Wales are one of the most generous across the globe, and I’m sure we will step up to the plate once again.
“The idea of hosting can be daunting. That’s why we have funded Housing Justice Cymru to provide a Host Support service which includes expert and reliable information, training, advice, and guidance for people hosting, or those considering hosting, Ukrainians in Wales.
“More information on sessions and training can be found on the Housing Justice Cymru website. We also publish regularly updated guidance for hosts and sponsors at gov. wales/ukraine.
“We still need many more households to consider whether they could provide a home for those in need. This would normally be a commitment to hosting for 6 to 12 months.
“If anyone is considering this, we encourage them to register their interest at gov.wales/offerhome, and to attend one of the ‘Introduction to Hosting’ sessions, facilitated by Housing Justice Cymru. You won’t need to continue the process if you decide it is not for you.
“We have also partnered with Airbnb.org to ensure very short-term emergency placements can be provided to prevent homelessness.
“If you cannot host for more than 6 months but you could offer your property for up to 30 days at a time, you may also be able to contribute. Visit gov.wales/offerhome and follow the link to the Airbnb.org platform.”
Finally, the Minister stated: “We will continue to communicate with those who host Ukrainians, with updated guidance and information to support the valuable role you are undertaking.
“To all those that are already hosting and to those that are considering hosting, thank you, we owe you all a huge debt of gratitude.”

WESTMINSTER MUST BACK HOSTS
DURING COST-OF-LIVING CRISIS

Conservative MS Mark Isherwood raised how the cost-of-living crisis affects Ukrainian refugees.
Where families had taken in those fleeing Russian aggression, he noted a risk of sponsorships not continuing beyond six months because the hosts cannot afford the rise in fuel costs.
He asked the Minister what discussions she’d had with the UK Government about increasing the £350 contribution to households who’d taken in Ukrainian refugees.
The Minister agreed with Mark Isherwood that ending a specific ministerial post dealing with refugees was regrettable.
She noted a lack of information from the UK Government over the summer months and since Liz Truss replaced Boris Johnson as head of the Conservative Government.
Ms Hutt said: “We asked for an increase at least to £500, or up again, doubling to £700 per month. An urgent decision is needed regarding this as they reach the end of their six-month period.
“That period is underway, so we’re writing to all hosts to see if they will continue.”

UK GOVERNMENT URGED
TO PICK UP THE PHONE

The Minister thanked Mark Isherwood for introducing her to a charity offering support in North Wales, Link, and hoped that he and his colleagues would bring pressure to bear on their Westminster colleagues to ensure those in need from Ukraine and those in Wales helping them received support.
She added: “I look forward perhaps that we might have some telephone calls from the Prime Minister and other Ministers to us in Government. We must engage with them and follow this through.
“There is a huge job of work to be done here. We’re taking responsibility in the way I’ve outlined, funding our welcome centres and paying thank-you payments to hosts if they support a family who initially arrived in Wales under the Ukraine family scheme.
“That’s not happening in England. The commitment that we’re making is considerable.
“I hope everyone will join us today, saying that we need to press for those answers in terms of financial support.”

THE THREAT OF HOMELESSNESS

Sioned Williams of Plaid Cymru raised the spectre of Ukrainian refugees becoming homeless in Wales due to a lack of financial support and the end of existing hosting and housing placements.
The Minister praised the work of local authorities across Wales supporting refugees.
She said: “There are very imaginative programmes. That includes a whole range of issues like repurposing empty buildings.
“Local authorities are really coming up with a whole range of ways in which we can support people, perhaps, from a welcome centre, or a host family, into that intermediate accommodation, and then on to other longer-term accommodation.”
Pembrokeshire currently houses around 200 Ukrainian refugees, with the demand for assistance outstripping the availability of suitable accommodation.

NOT ONE PENNY FROM WESTMINSTER
TO SUPPORT FAMILIES FLEEING WAR

Responding to a question from Mabon ap Gwynfor about problems housing family groups, Jane Hutt hit out at the lack of support from the UK Government and how it’s u-turned on a commitment to help families.
“The UK Government has never given a penny towards the family scheme.
“The former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in one of his last PMQs, actually said that he thought the Ukraine family scheme should get the same funding and support as the Homes for Ukraine scheme. It’s never happened.
“We have provided thank-you payments to people who are hosting Ukrainian families. It’s all Welsh Government money; it’s not UK Government, because they don’t provide a penny. And also, the British Red Cross—£246,000—who are actually supporting Ukrainian families who are hosting family members under the Ukrainian family scheme.”
On Wednesday, September 28, Eluned Morgan, Wales’s Health Minister, announced the continuation of free healthcare in Wales to Ukrainian residents displaced by the ongoing conflict.
The exemption will continue to apply unless there’s a significant change in circumstances in Ukraine.

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Retired teacher, 75, dies following Saturday night incident in Burry Port

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RETIRED teacher Peter Ormerod, aged 75, who suffered serious injuries in an incident in Burry Port on Saturday night (24 September) has sadly passed away earlier today.

His family have paid tribute to him, saying: “Peter was a well-respected teacher and member of the community.

“A very loved and loving father, grandfather, brother and friend.”

The family requests privacy at this difficult time.

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