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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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Parents warned to look out for respiratory illness in children

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RSV is a common respiratory illness which is usually picked up by children during the winter season

RESPIRATORY Syncytial Virus (RSV) is circulating amongst children and toddlers in the Hywel Dda area (Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire)  

Hywel Dda UHB Medical Director and Deputy Chief Executive Dr Philip Kloer said: “Because of the COVID restrictions, there have been few cases of RSV during the pandemic, but this virus has returned and in higher numbers now people are mixing more.

“RSV is a common respiratory illness which is usually picked up by children during the winter season, and causes very few problems to the majority of children.  However, very young babies, particularly those born prematurely, and children with heart or lung conditions, can be seriously affected and it’s important that parents are aware of the actions to take.”

Parents are being encouraged to look out for symptoms of severe infection in at-risk children, including:

*a high temperature of 37.8°C or above (fever)

*a dry and persistent cough, difficulty feeding, rapid or noisy breathing (wheezing).

The best way to prevent RSV is to wash hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser regularly, dispose of used tissues correctly, and to keep surfaces clean and sanitised.

Most cases of bronchiolitis are not serious and clear up within 2 to 3 weeks, but you should contact your GP or call NHS 111 if:

  • You are worried about your child.
  • Your child has taken less than half their usual amount during the last two or three feeds, or they have had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more.
  • Your child has a persistent high temperature of 37.8C or above.
  • Your child seems very tired or irritable.

Dial 999 for an ambulance if:

  • your baby is having difficulty breathing
  • your baby’s tongue or lips are blue
  • there are long pauses in your baby’s breathing
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Health Board issues urgent call to anyone due a second Moderna vaccine

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RESIDENTS living in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire are being urged to check their vaccination card and come forward for their second Moderna vaccine this week if they are due.

Anyone approaching 8 weeks since a first Moderna dose should contact the Hywel Dda University Health Board’s vaccine booking team to make an appointment by calling 0300 303 8322 or by emailing COVIDenquiries.hdd@wales.nhs.uk or attend their nearest mass vaccination centre’s walk-in clinic.

Bethan Lewis, Interim Assistant Director of Public Health for Hywel Dda UHB said, “Our mass vaccination centres are contacting people due a second dose of Moderna directly but in case anyone missed a call from us, we want to make sure that everyone due a second dose, especially Moderna, knows we are asking them to come forward as soon as possible.

“Two doses of the vaccine, regardless of which you received, is important for you to receive the best longer-term protection.

“The Moderna vaccine is available at all walk-in clinics across the three counties and the mobile vaccination van which will be visiting Ammanford’s Tesco store on Friday 17 and Saturday 18 September.”

If you received a first Moderna dose 8 or more weeks ago, you can attend your local centre without an appointment during the following times:

Walk-in opening times:

  • Aberystwyth (Thomas Parry Library, SY23 3AS) – open Monday 13 to Thursday 16 September between 10.00am and 6.00pm. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available. AstraZeneca only available on Thursday 16 September.
  • Ammanford (Tesco car park, Mobile Vaccination Van) – Friday 17 September and Saturday 18 September from 11.00am to 7.00pm.
  • Carmarthen walk-in Halliwell (former Y Gamfa Wen Nursery, UWTSD, SA31 3EP) – open Monday 13 to Thursday 16 September between 10.00am and 4.00pm. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available.
  • Carmarthen drive-through (United Counties Showground, SA33 5DR) – open Monday 13 to Thursday 16 September between 10am and 6pm. Moderna vaccine available.
  • Cwm-cou (Ysgol Trewen, SA38 9PE) –Open Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 September between 9.30am and 9pm. Pfizer and Moderna vaccine available.
  • Haverfordwest (Pembrokeshire Archives, SA61 2PE) – open Monday 13 to Thursday 16 September between 10am and 6pm. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available. AstraZeneca only available between 10am and 4pm on Thursday 16 September.
  • Llanelli (Dafen Industrial Estate, Unit 2a, Heol Cropin, SA14 8QW) – open Monday 13 to Thursday 16 September between 10am and 4pm. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available. AstraZeneca only available on Thursday 16 September.
  • Tenby (Tenby Leisure Centre, SA70 8EJ) – open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday for walk-ins between 10am and 4pm. Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines available.
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Operation Elegant: Eight sentenced to 40 years after police break up drugs gang

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EIGHT people have been jailed as part of an organised crime gang which trafficked cocaine worth almost £200,000 into Llanelli over a five-month period.

Dyfed-Powys Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Team dismantled the gang which was transporting the class ‘A’ drug between Swansea, Pontarddulais and Llanelli in a covert operation named ‘Operation Elegant’.

The operation resulted in more than 2kg of cocaine being supplied by the gang.

Nine defendants, including one who will be sentenced at a later date, admitted their involvement in the conspiracy to supply cocaine between May and October 2020. The eight sentenced so far have  been jailed for a total of 40 years.

Detective Constable Mark Jones, Op Elegant lead officer, said: “This was a lengthy operation involving a number of departments across the force, who investigated intelligence, coordinated a series of warrants, interviewed the defendants and carried out detailed enquiries into their activity.

“Today’s sentencing culminates more than a year of police work, which saw the disruption of a major supply chain into Llanelli and the dismantling of an organised crime gang, which was no doubt linked to illegal behaviour on a wider scale.”

DC Jones explained that the Llanelli gang was headed up by 27-year-old Shaun Hearne, who put together a team of trusted associates to move, store, prepare and distribute cocaine throughout Llanelli.

When restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the availability of the drug, Hearne was not deterred, and approached 25-year-old Aaron Hookway, a Swansea dealer, to source it.

This proved successful, as enquiries revealed the gang bought drugs from upstream supplier Hookway on 13 occasions, using 36-year-old Rebecca Viola’s home in Felinfoel as a stash house to store the commodity.

From there, couriers and sub-dealers Laura Coelho, Neville Ayres, Jordan Dale Parry, Keiran Price and Daniel Rhodri Evans were responsible for distributing the drugs.

“Through our investigation, we discovered that the gang was made up of a number of people acting as couriers and sub-dealers in various areas across Llanelli, directed by Hearne,” DC Jones said.

“Our first step in disrupting their activity was in stopping a car driven by Neville Ayres on 1st September, 2020, during which uniformed officers seized 10 ounces of cocaine.

“Ayres was a trusted employee of Hearne, who had such a blasé attitude towards his illegal behaviour that he had this huge amount of cocaine – worth more than £22,000 – in plain sight in the footwell of his car”.

“Despite this upset, the gang continued with their activity for another month, when we targeted all members with 15 warrants carried out across Llanelli.”

The week-long enforcement phase saw 13 people arrested, with searches also carried out at homes in Swansea, Ceredigion and Cornwall.

Nine of those arrested were charged with being involved in a conspiracy to supply cocaine. All nine admitted the offence, and eight of them received the following sentences on Monday 6th September 2021 and Tuesday 7th September 2021 at Swansea Crown Court:

  • Head of Llanelli gang Shaun Hearne, aged 27, of Isgraig, Burry Port: 8 years 8 months.
  • Swansea ‘upstream’ dealer Aaron Hookway, aged 25, of Station Road, Fforestfach: 9 years.
  • Courier and Hearne’s partner Laura Coelho, aged 28, of Bond Avenue, Llanelli: 2 years 5 months.
  • Llanelli courier and sub-dealer Neville Ayres, aged 42, of West End, Llanelli: 4 years 9 months.
  • Felinfoel storage and sub-dealer Rebecca Viola, aged 36, of Cae Glas, Llanelli: 4 years.
  • Llanelli sub-dealer Jordan Dale Parry, aged 25, of Dilwyn Street, Llanelli: 3 years 4 months.
  • Llanelli courier Keiran Price, aged 28, of Tirgoff, Llangennech: 4 years 10 months.
  • Llwynhendy sub-dealer Daniel Rhodri Evans, aged 29, of Heol Elfed, Llanelli: 3 years.

The ninth, Llanelli courier Jeffrey Parker-Ward, aged 23, of Stepney Street, will be sentenced at a later date.

As part of the operation, a number of high-value vehicles were seized, along with £11,000 in cash.

Further work is now being carried out as part of a proceeds of crime act investigation, aimed at confiscating criminal assets gained through illegal activities.

“The sentences of a total of 40 years in prison is a testament to the work that was put into this investigation,” DC Jones said.

“Not only have we taken a substantial amount of cocaine out of the supply chain, but we have disrupted the supply into Llanelli, where it would have caused an untold amount of harm to the community.

“I would like to thank all officers involved for their hard work, determination and commitment with HH Judge Rees commenting that the investigation was commendably executed. I would like to reassure the public that we will continue to act on all concerns over drugs use and abuse.”

BCU Commander for Carmarthenshire Gary Phillips said: “The sentences handed out at Swansea Crown Court are not only a reflection of the significant effort that has been put into this police investigation, but they also send a clear message that being involved in serious and organised crime in Carmarthenshire will ultimately lead to you being targeted by police and put before the courts.”

To report suspicious behaviour in your community, visit https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, email 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or call 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.

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