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Homelessness: Gap between perception and reality

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ALMOST half of online adults aged 18+ in Wales (46 per cent) say they always, or almost always do nothing when they see someone in the street who is Homelessnesshomeless, compared to 54 per cent across the UK. More than a quarter of people in Wales say the main cause of homelessness is alcohol or drug addiction (30 per cent), followed by debt (20 per cent), according to new research commissioned by The Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army also carried out a survey of more than 300 residents of its centres (Lifehouses) for people experiencing homelessness, including Swan Lodge in Sunderland, and reveals a worrying gap between the reality of what it’s like to be homeless and the perception of the general public.

The Church and charity is warning that without greater education this gap will widen, making it harder for people who are experiencing homelessness to get their lives back on track which could risk increasing the cost to society in the future.

Major Howard Russell, Deputy Territorial Director of Homelessness Services at The Salvation Army, said: “At The Salvation Army we are working to end the cycle of homelessness and one of the key hurdles we face is around people’s attitudes as our research has revealed the general public believe alcohol and drugs are the root cause of homelessness when, in our experience, this isn’t the case. We believe educating the public on the reality of what causes homelessness is the way to overcome this.”

The Church and charity’s survey of its Lifehouses, reveals the main cause of homelessness is relationship breakdown (43 per cent), followed by a combination of issues (16 per cent), physical or mental health problems (13 per cent), job loss (11 per cent), then addiction (10 per cent), and finally debt (6 per cent).

Major Russell said: “While the general public appear to be aware that there are a variety of causes of homelessness, more than a quarter of people incorrectly perceive drug and alcohol addiction to be the main cause.

“Yes, alcohol and drugs may be a problem for many people experiencing homeless, this often comes as a result of homelessness and, as our survey of our Lifehouse residents shows, it is rarely the cause. Instead, it is relationship breakdown, something that can happen to anyone at any time.”

While revealing that 73 per cent of those in Wales say that at least some of the time they do nothing when they see someone who is experiencing homelessness, 41 per cent say they give cash at least sometimes, 26 per cent sometimes purchased something to eat or drink and 15 per cent say that they at least sometimes find out where the nearest homelessness service is and pass on the details to the person who was sleeping rough.

Major Russell continued: “We find it quite shocking that such a large proportion of the public polled would simply walk on by, doing nothing for a person sleeping rough.

“It isn’t an issue that can be ignored and we believe awareness needs to be raised. Our extensive experience has shown us that homelessness can affect anyone, and so it is surprising that the Ipsos MORI poll has revealed 36 per cent of people in Wales don’t think that they, or someone close to them could ever experience homelessness. At our Lifehouses you’ll find many people who previously worked in a range of professions and skilled jobs.”

The Church and charity’s survey of Lifehouses reported that 89 per cent of residents agreed that if there was one thing they wished they’d known before they experienced homelessness it was that it can happen to anyone.

The Salvation Army believe the Ipsos MORI research reveals a lack of understanding around who can be affected by homelessness as 21 per of people say it is not at all likely that someone with a job that requires a professional qualification could ever become homeless.

Interestingly the survey of Salvation Army Lifehouse residents shows that 72 per cent worked before they experienced homelessness. In addition, 65 per cent reported that employers treat them differently when they find out they’re homeless. For 70 per cent people in general treat them differently because they are experiencing homelessness.

Damon Short is a resident at Ty Gobaith Lifehouse in Cardiff. He lived on the streets for over 30 years after being in care, approved schools, hostels and jail.

He was approached by an outreach worker of the Bridge Programme at The Salvation Army and slowly began to rebuild his life. He is now a volunteer on the church and charity’s Bus Project for rough sleepers and credits The Salvation Army with helping turn his life around.

He said: “My early experiences in life made me institutionalised but I liked being on the streets because I was meeting new people and there was always something new to do etc. So my life (existence) was centred on drink and drugs resulting in me having no food – this was my situation for a long, long time.

“My Mother moved to Cardiff and I started to help her as she was alcohol and hash dependant. It made things easier for me to see her but to be honest this also made things harder for me as my health was getting worse daily.

“During one of my admissions to hospital for my drinking I was approached by the outreach worker of the Bridge Programme at The Salvation Army. A place was made available and even though I was unsure about what it was or what I could do there I accepted it. During the early days of being there a few of my friends passed away and I found the programme hard to say the least. I eventually got my detox date in the local hospital – this really scared me and I wondered what would be left in life or how I would feel without drink or drugs in my life.

“I completed my detox – I was chuffed, I’d actually done it. It felt all new and weird at first, I wasn’t too sure if I liked it or not. After a few weeks my Mother had become more and more withdrawn, her moods had changed which sadly resulted in her taking her own life. I was devastated! I attended the cremation but didn’t want to attend the wake as I knew it could start me back drinking and if I started drinking over this sadness I wouldn’t come out the other side whole.

“This actually made me stronger and gave me such determination to stay dry and clean. Initially I thought the Bridge Programme wasn’t what I wanted – how wrong was I! After a little time I started with help to deal with my feelings and thoughts, it was then that I started to live rather than exist!

The daily group sessions became exciting and I engaged fully in them, this boosted my confidence and self belief. I started to volunteer at a Peer Mentoring Group after passing the appropriate courses arranged by the Skills department. My courses have given me options to eventually achieve a NVQ via OCNs and Learn Direct.

“Recently I have regained contact with my children after seven years which is brilliant. I also volunteer on The Salvation Army’s Outreach Bus Project with the rough sleepers of Cardiff – I enjoy this immensely as I relate fully. It will only be a matter of time before I also start to assist at the local needle exchange project.

“All these placements and meetings are so worthwhile as now I’ve a purpose to get up in the mornings; my confidence and independence is such that I can’t wait for my own property to become available.

I would never have thought that I would ever be where I am today; it just proves how far I’ve come with the help and assistance of everyone who has invested their time and effort into my recovery. I am the man I am today because people believed in me and I started to believe in myself – I am now a happy, excited and purposeful person.”

The survey of Lifehouse residents reveals 68 per cent feel that people see their homelessness rather than them as a person.

The Ipsos MORI survey of online adults in the UK goes further in revealing the challenges faced by people once they have secured somewhere permanent to live and got their lives back on track, as 58 per cent agree that employers are less likely to give jobs to people who have previously experienced homelessness.

Major Russell concluded: “The MORI poll result appears to suggest that people believe once you’ve experienced homelessness employers will think twice about giving you a job. At The Salvation Army we never give up on anyone as we believe in helping individuals to reach their full potential, whatever that may be, and we would like to encourage people to put themselves in the shoes of a someone experiencing homelessness, as it is something that can happen to anyone, it’s not just alcoholics and drug addicts.”

The Salvation Army is an expert in running services for people experiencing homelessness and understands that a tailored and personal approach is needed when providing support. The Church and charity is keen to demonstrate that it’s not a simple case of providing accommodation as it employs a skilled workforce who are there at every step of the way to walk alongside residents and equip them with the skills and support they need to reach their full potential, whether that be employment, re-connecting with family or beating an addiction.

In total The Salvation Army have more than 80 homelessness services around the UK and the Republic of Ireland. It runs a number of courses and activities at all it’s Lifehouses which range from employment skills and cookery classes to how to keep their tenancy when they get somewhere to live, an important part of breaking the cycle of homelessness.

According to The Salvation Army’s survey, 76 per cent of residents take part in at least one activity on offer and 32 per cent do all the courses available to them, which the Church and charity believe shows how keen residents are to get their lives on track, if society will allow them the opportunity.

This year The Salvation Army is celebrating 150 years of transforming lives and it is still at the heart of every community today, supporting those in need.

If a member of the public sees someone rough sleeping The Salvation Army would like to suggest the public visit their local council’s website for 24 hour assistance on what they can do to help someone who is sleeping rough or experiencing homelessness.

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Business

Maintenance plant shutdown planned for Dragon LNG

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DRAGON LNG is scheduled to commence a 26-day planned maintenance shutdown at its Waterston
site from Monday May 17

The 24/7 shutdown will enable Dragon to carry out periodic maintenance and inspection, whilst
taking advantage of the opportunity to carry out some small improvement projects in a safe and controlled manner.

In addition to the normal preparations for a shutdown, which started in February 2020, Dragon
have been working extensively with Welsh Government, Public Health Wales, Pembrokeshire County Council TTP team and UK Government, including the Department for Business, Energy
and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to align already in place COVID controls in preparation for our
additional workforce from 15 key vendors to support a successful event.

During the shutdown, there will be over 140 valve overhauls, approx. 960 COVID-19 LFD | PCR
tests carried out by a specialist company and over 200 virtual site safety inductions (enhanced with
COVID site controls).

With the works taking place within the site process area, any impact to our community, including
noise and dust disturbances is not anticipated. Please do note that flaring will be undertaken
during the shutdown.

A Dragon spokesperson told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “Whilst this is a major event at Dragon, the 1st shutdown since 2011, our top priority always is the safety of our team and community”.

Dragon continues to update its’ community and stakeholders on the progress of the work.

For any enquiries, please contact karen.wood@dragonlng.com / 01646 691730.

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Community

Encouraging responsible dog ownership so everyone enjoys their day at the beach

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is encouraging and promoting responsible dog ownership to ensure that we can all enjoy the County’s glorious beaches this summer.

With Covid-19 restrictions easing and lots of people expected to head to the coast, respecting one another and the natural environment will be more important than ever.

And, as a dog-friendly County, Pembrokeshire will be welcoming many four-legged friends too.

While visiting and enjoying Pembrokeshire beaches, dog lovers are asked to be mindful of some restrictions regarding their pets.

Between 1st May and 30th September dogs are not permitted on the North Beach in Tenby, or Whitesands Beach near St Davids. However, some other beaches have specific dog-free areas Designated.

Other areas indicate where dogs must be kept on leads.

The byelaws are in place so that everyone, dog owners and non-dog owners alike, can enjoy their time at the seaside.

Updated signage detailing the byelaws will be displayed on all beaches, main beach access and exit points, plus signs and flags being displayed and flown by lifeguards.

This will help pet owners to take their pets to the areas of beach designated for their enjoyment.

The signage used will be part of a wider campaign to encourage responsible behaviour while visiting and enjoying Pembrokeshire.

While engaging with members of the public, explaining the byelaws and encouraging responsible behaviour will always be the preference, there has also been a change to how the restrictions will be monitored.

Enforcement Teams will be working alongside the patrols currently undertaken to address littering and dog fouling in our communities.

Where appropriate, Fixed Penalty Notices of £75 can be issued. This can rise up to £500 if the matter were to be successfully prosecuted in court.

It is hoped that by engaging, advising and promoting the byelaws, supported by new signage, the Council can encourage people to be even more responsible dog owners.

This will result in a fun, positive experience for all beach users this Summer.

Pembrokeshire County Council Leader Cllr David Simpson, said: “Pembrokeshire can’t wait to welcome all those who have been dreaming about a walk on the beach throughout much of the past year.

“We know and understand that dogs are part of the family and taking your pets out to the beach for the day or a simple walk at the seaside is so important.

“We hope that by engaging and explaining we can promote responsible dog ownership this summer to ensure everyone can enjoy their time on our incredible coast.

“Please plan your visits and take the time to have a look at the maps of the dog free areas and other information available and we look forward to welcoming everyone, whether two legs or four, once again.”

For more information, see: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/dog-control

Maps of the dog free areas and further information can be downloaded at: https://www.visitpembrokeshire.com/downloads

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Community

Speedy Sanna’s second shot at Pembrokeshire Coast Path record

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A DETERMINED Pembrokeshire woman will reattempt to set a new record next week by running the Pembrokeshire Coast Path in the fastest time.

Sanna Duthie, 32, from Milford Haven, is aiming to become only the second person to run the whole of the 186-mile Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

Sanna attempted to break the record in August last year, but after clocking off more than 63 miles she had to abandon the record attempt for her own safety, due to the horrendous weather conditions.

She hopes to complete her run in under 64 hours and 32 minutes and is using the opportunity to raise money for the Wales Air Ambulance Charity. Sanna has already smashed her fundraising target of £2,000 by raising an amazing £2,162.

The current record is held by Haverfordwest’s Richard Simpson, who completed the challenge in 2018.

As an ultra-runner, she has previously completed a 100-mile run in under 28 hours, but she is now hoping to exceed that and raise money for a charity close to her heart at the same time.

Reflecting on how she feels about re-attempting the challenge, Sanna, who likes to run ‘silly races’ said: “I am very nervous but feeling determined and strong. I’ve trained over 300 miles a month since March 2020, so I’ve done all the training I can. I would have liked to have gone to the gym, but I’ve done what I can at home. I’ve been out on difference sections of the coast path since restrictions have eased and it’s in good condition.”

Weather permitting Sanna, who is ‘overwhelmed’ with how much money she has raised, will start the challenge at 8am on Friday, 7 May at St Dogmaels and finishing in Amroth on Sunday, 9 May.

In preparation of the challenge Sanna has received a lot of support from her partner, family and friends, she said: “My dad and partner have been amazing. Making sure I’m fed after long runs and just being there. My friends have been amazing and although we haven’t been able to run together just knowing they support me helps. I’m hoping some can join me on the challenge it will be great to catch up. The chatter will be a great distraction.”

Katie Macro, Wales Air Ambulance South West Wales Community Co-ordinator, said: “We’re so grateful to Sanna for taking on this huge challenge once again. Her determination is outstanding, and she has so far raised an amazing amount for our lifesaving charity.

“Despite the horrendous weather during her last attempt she managed to run over 63 miles and only stopped the record attempt when it became unsafe to continue. Her determination is inspiring.

“On its own, it is a significant personal challenge, and we will be supporting her all the way to the finish line – and hopefully to a new record. For Sanna to choose to raise money for our lifesaving service at the same time is incredible. We are so grateful for her support and we’d like to wish her all the best. Thank you to everyone who has supported Sanna and continue to support her with her fundraiser.”

You can show your support to Sanna by donating to her Just Giving page – Sanna’s 186 miles – Pembrokeshire Coastpathhttps://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sanna-duthie2.

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