New figures released today by the Welsh Government report a disappointing increase in the number of rough sleepers across Wales since 2016.

Research carried out over a two-week period between 16th and 29th October 2017 reports a 10% increase in the number of persons sleeping rough compared against the number of persons counted in the same exercise when carried out in October 2016. A snapshot count taken by Local Authorities across Wales between 10pm on the 9th and 5am on the 10th November 2017 shows a 33% increase in the number of individuals observed sleeping rough compared against the number of individuals counted the previous year.

These figures are very concerning, and clearly shows the impact of the UK Government’s policies, including welfare reform and benefits sanctions. It’s absolutely vital that we do something to tackle the issue of homelessness, but we must remember that rough sleeping is a complex issue, with a range of causes. In trying to resolve the issue of rough sleeping, we must remember that each individual’s circumstances are unique, requiring support that is tailored to their specific needs. We must also recognise that accessing temporary accommodation or a place in a hostel is only ever a stop-gap, and longer-term support is needed to support people out of homelessness.

Although the increases in rough sleeping are undoubtedly linked to UK Government policy, it is vital that the Welsh Government continue to ring-fence budgets like Supporting People and Homelessness Prevention Grants, in order to ensure that we do not see the decimation of homelessness services, that have been seen in England.

It is also important to remember that a person does not have to be living on the streets to be classed as homeless. The figures documented in the Welsh Government’s report today are only snapshot counts of people sleeping rough, and do not take into account the scale of hidden homelessness across Wales. It is estimated that thousands of individuals across Wales each year are spending prolonged periods of time sofa surfing, sleeping on people’s floor, cars or staying in otherwise precarious - and often dangerous - accommodation in order to avoid the streets.

Llamau’s mission is to end homelessness, and in order to prevent future rough sleeping, we need to invest in young people who are vulnerable to homelessness now. Being homeless when you’re young can be terrifying and have life-long consequences if you don’t receive the right support. We have to step in early and support the homeless young people of today, and those young people who are at risk of homelessness, to prevent them becoming the homeless people of tomorrow. 

Last year we launched End Youth Homelessness Cymru – a 10-year campaign to end youth homelessness in Wales. Working in partnership with Welsh Government, Local Authorities and other homelessness charities in Wales, the End Youth Homelessness Cymru campaign commits to establish the scale of hidden homelessness in Wales, to develop measures that will reduce hidden homelessness across Wales and to place a focus on early intervention and prevention in order to reduce the volume of rough sleeping in the long term.