David Pawl* is a thirty-eight year old Welshman from Criccieth and had been experiencing homelessness for four years prior to the beginning of the pandemic. After leaving the army and following a relationship break down, he was forced into homelessness and moved between sofa surfing and sleeping in a tent. When he approached his local council for support, he was told he didn’t qualify due a lack of local connection, despite living in the area since the age of seven.

David had a family address while he was in the army, but didn’t pay council tax, which meant he didn’t have a local connection to get services help. Then, the pandemic started and he was given a place to stay in a B&B. When he was asked to leave, he sought help to challenge the decision and was able to move into somewhere more permanent. “Having a place to live has helped me think about the future and start working towards that now,” he said.

Sadly, charities in Wales say current legislation is leaving people like David stuck in a cycle of homelessness for longer, pushed further from support and more likely to experience multiple forms of homelessness because of legal tests meaning they cannot access vital assistance from local councils, according to new research.

The No One Left Out report, published by national homelessness charity Crisis, shows that since 2015 one in 8 people (9,261) who went to their local council for help to end their homelessness were unable to access further support. In the last year alone, this meant 1,773 people remained homeless. The average age of death for people experiencing homelessness is 46 for men, and 43 for women, and Crisis research shows that people who are forced to sleep rough are almost 17 times more likely to be victims of violence.

The Housing (Wales) Act 2014 was a landmark piece of legislation which placed a legal duty on councils to prevent homelessness from but Crisis’ new research shows that the Act does not work for everyone because of the tests they must pass before they can access support. These tests include whether someone falls within a ‘priority need’ category, such as whether someone has dependent children, whether someone has a connection to the local area and whether they can prove they have not become homeless intentionally.

The study also found that the emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic has given local authorities renewed hope that ending homelessness is possible across Wales, as they’d been able to help people who would have otherwise been left out of support. The Welsh Government’s directive to help everyone experiencing homelessness to keep them safe during the outbreak saw more than 7,000 people who were previously sleeping rough, provided with self-contained temporary accommodation and support last year. Now, one year on from the introduction of the emergency measures, Crisis launched its No One Left Out campaign urging political parties to commit to changing the law.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “The bold and decisive action taken as part of the emergency response over the last year has shown us exactly what is possible with political will. Now, we must not go back. We can end homelessness for everyone in Wales.”

*David Pawl is a pseudonym for an actual person whose story is told here. His experience is real.

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