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Emergency legislation could provide lifeline for people sleeping rough in Wales

Senedd. Credit: Adobe Stock

Crisis, the national charity for people facing homelessness across Wales, Scotland and England, has warmly welcomed a new temporary addition to the law, passed by the Senedd this week

The charity says this is a significant step forward for people experiencing the most visible and dangerous form of homelessness – rough sleeping. 

The change in law will mean people who are sleeping on the streets in Wales will now legally be seen as one of the groups in priority need of rehousing support under Part 2 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. This change, the charity says, is crucial as the cost of living soars and winter approaches.

This new legal addition represents a continuation of the approach adopted by local authorities during the pandemic, working to ensure people who are rough sleeping receive the support they were often excluded from prior to the pandemic.

Crisis’ 2021 report ‘No-one Left Out (Neb Heb Help)’ showed that, before the pandemic, many people in Wales who were not classed as ‘priority need’ under the law were turned away from support, even if this could have forced them to sleep rough. 

Research has shown repeatedly that rough sleeping puts people in very real danger and can have long-lasting effects on a person’s physical health and mental wellbeing. Crisis’ ‘It’s No Life At All’ survey of rough sleepers across England and Wales in 2016 revealed that rough sleepers are enduring shocking levels of abuse and violence. Of those surveyed, the majority (77%) reported anti-social behaviour/a crime against them, and 30% reported being deliberately hit, kicked or experiencing another form of violence. 

Crisis believes that much wider reform of the law is needed to end homelessness for good, but says this addition to the law is a vital step in protecting many people from being forced to sleep rough while the longer-term changes are being reviewed. 

The charity is pleased to convene the Welsh Government’s Expert Review Panel for homelessness legislation, which seeks to make recommendations on long-term and wider legal changes to end homelessness in Wales. 

Matt Downie, Crisis Chief Executive, said: “I would like to congratulate and thank the Welsh Government for this vital change in the law. When it comes to homelessness, time is a luxury that we don’t have – and never has that been more true than during the current cost of living crisis. That makes this legislation all the more welcome, and it is a timely and decisive step on the road to ending homelessness in Wales.

“Rough sleeping is the most punishing, vicious form of homelessness. This addition to the law today is significant as it will help more people off the streets and into emergency accommodation, affording them breathing space to begin to rebuild their lives.

“We are also pleased to be working with the Welsh Government and Members of Senedd on longer term solutions to ensure that further steps are taken to end homelessness for good.”