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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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Community

Bluestone Foundation makes waves in west Wales communities

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THE BLUESTONE FOUNDATION, the charitable arm of Bluestone National Park Resort, is continuing to make a positive impact on the people and communities of West Wales through its latest round of events and funding totalling £17,500

The Foundation has recently completed a successful round of grant allocations through its Community Fund and is gearing up for its next fundraising event in August at the Blue Lagoon Water Park. It has supported local groups with more than £250,000 since it was launched in 2010.

The Bluestone Foundation offers two avenues of support: the Community Events and the Community Fund. The Community Events at the Blue Lagoon raise funds and awareness for local charities.

This year, the Foundation has already hosted events for Get the Boys a Lift and VC Gallery, with upcoming events supporting Paul Sartori and Team Cruising Free in August and Sammy Sized Gap in October.

Each event is hosted by a local charitable organisation and local residents will be able to buy tickets. All of the proceeds are directed into the community, with 75% of funds going to a local charitable organisation and 25% through the Bluestone Foundation.

Each event will mean up to 600 local community members can enjoy our water park’s facilities while raising money directly for local good causes. On Tuesday 27th August, Paul Sartori Hospice at Home and Team Cruising Free will benefit from the fundraising created through ticket sales.

“We are thrilled to see the positive impact our Community Events have on local organisations,” said Marten Lewis at the Bluestone Foundation. “The Blue Lagoon provides a unique and enjoyable setting for fundraising, and we are grateful for the community’s support.”

The Community Fund, which runs in three rounds this year, provides financial assistance to projects focused on economic, social, and environmental initiatives. The Foundation recently allocated approximately £7,500 to three projects in its first round of funding and is currently reviewing applications for its second round which closes in July. A third round of funding will close on 17 October.

Among those to have benefited in the first round are the South Ridgeway Community Association in Manorbier to help develop a community garden and allotments; The Tenby Project, to support weekly sessions with a trained nutritionist on healthy eating for adults with learning difficulties; and Transition Bro Gwaun in Fishguard, to host community energy engagement events.

The Foundation is inviting the community to join them at their next Blue Lagoon event on August 27th, where they will be raising funds for Cruising Free and Paul Sartori. Tickets can be purchased at  Blue Lagoon event in support of Team Cruising Free Tickets, Tue 27 Aug 2024 at 18:30 | Eventbrite

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Community

‘No second homes’ call for Saundersfoot estate plans

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A SCHEME by one of the UK’s largest housebuilders to site 72 homes, 25 of them affordable, on the outskirts of a Pembrokeshire village is not expected to have a no second homes condition, despite a plea by the local community council.

Back in 2022, Persimmon Homes applied to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park for the scheme on a 2.26 hectare area of land adjoining the northernmost houses of a long-established Sandyhill Park residential estate, Saundersfoot.

The official application, including 47 open market dwellings, proposes a variety of detached, semi-detached, terraced and apartment properties to create an “attractive and integrated extension to Saundersfoot”.

The application is recommended for delegated approval when it comes before the national park’s July 17 development management committee.

The affordable housing units will be split into four low-cost ownership units and 21 socially rented units, a report for national park planners says; the 35 per cent affordable percentage taking precedent over an affordable housing policy requirement of 50 per cent as it is designated as an allocated site.

As well as the affordable housing element and an open space provision, a financial contribution of £2,000 per open market property, some £94,000, is required by the county council’s highways department to cover the contribution towards Active Travel Routes within the local area (Saundersfoot Harbour to New Hedges).

Local community council Saundersfoot has objected to the scheme on a number of grounds, asking for its refusal, the report says.

The community council also wants a caveat that no property is bought for second-home holiday use.

Reasons of objection include: potentially causing an imbalance of the aesthetics of the remaining green areas of the village; the scheme being dominant, overbearing, and intrusive to existing residents; access and road safety issues; infrastructure, and the effect on local services.

On a potential residency condition, the report says: “With regards to whether or not it is appropriate to apply a planning condition limiting the use of the market houses to C3 primary dwellings only and therefore preventing use as a second home or holiday let, the authority has undertaken an assessment based on its established methodology.”

It says the assessment “demonstrates that there is not a sufficient justification in this case to impose such a condition,” adding: “Whilst Saundersfoot as a whole has a slightly higher percentage of second homes and holiday lets than was anticipated when the LDP2 was developed, the majority of detached properties of the estate style type proposed as market dwellings on this site in Saundersfoot are occupied as primary dwellings.

“It is the flat or apartment-style properties that are more likely to be occupied as a holiday let or second home, however within the development these properties will already be controlled as they are designated as affordable housing.

“There is therefore no need to apply a use class condition to the properties, based on the evidence gathered.”

It is recommended, subject to further updates to be received at the committee meeting, that delegated powers of approval are given to officers, subject to receipt of a Section 106 legal agreement addressing the provision of affordable housing, open space and a financial contribution towards the Active Travel Route.

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Community

Torch Theatre and Port partnership strengthens community engagement

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A TWO-YEAR funding partnership between the Torch Theatre and the Port of Milford Haven is going from strength to strength, providing over 10,000 hours of engaging, creative activities for the community in its first year.

During the past 12 months, the Torch Theatre has welcomed 45 schools and over 5,000 students to workshops, performances and tours of the building expanding young peoples’ knowledge, experiences and aspirations. Over 130 youngsters attended the Youth Theatre, 35 took part in the Summer Schools, 40 adults benefited from Creative Writing courses and 45 members enjoyed participating in the community choir, Torch Voices.

Chief Executive of the Port of Milford Haven, Tom Sawyer, is delighted with how the partnership is developing: “The Torch Theatre is a fantastic arts and culture hub for Pembrokeshire and I’m inspired when I hear how many people they’ve supported over the last year through their vibrant programme of performances, workshops and activities. Everybody should be able to access the arts, it nourishes our hearts and minds, and we’re pleased to see so many people getting on board and embracing what the Torch has to offer.”

Ben Lloyd, CEO at the Torch Theatre, said “We are very grateful for the Port’s support through this successful partnership. It is hugely important to us as it enables us to extend our reach to more people, particularly young people, across our community which we know contributes to feelings of inclusion and wellbeing. This partnership has bolstered our youth and community offer, allowing us to keep activities affordable and accessible for all.”

Throughout 2024, the team at the Torch will be building on the success of last year. The uptake of subsidised youth theatre engagement has increased, educational outreach continues to reach further into the community, their entire Youth Theatre will come together, for the first time in a generation, to present a Main Stage production Wind in the Willows featuring a collaboration with Torch Voices, and their subsidised summer schools are growing in popularity.

P: Chief Executive of the Torch Theatre Ben Lloyd (left) with CEO of the Port of Milford Haven Tom Sawyer (right).

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