Plaid Cymru Arfon has expressed concern at anecdotal evidence of a dramatic increase in rough sleeping in Bangor.
Catrin Wager, one of Bangor’s county councillors, met with Sian Gwenllian AM last week to discuss what can be done as agencies dealing with the homeless in Bangor are reporting what they see as an increase in the numbers of people needing shelter.
“I’ve noticed an increase myself when I’ve been out and about in Bangor, and people are telling me that they feel there’s been an increase too,” said Cllr. Catrin Wager.
“I’ve had people in various agencies telling me that there may be as many as 80 people sleeping rough in Bangor at the moment.
“There is some excellent support for the homeless in Bangor, but we lack emergency shelter for people finding themselves newly or temporarily homeless. I would like to see a centre developed in the city where people can stay for as little as one night if they need a stop-gap due to unforeseen circumstances in their situation, and a place where homeless people can go to see a doctor, to have a shower or use a laundrette, or take their dog to see a vet.”
Arfon AM Sian Gwenllian said, “Homelessness is often seen as an urban and big city issue, but I am acutely aware that we have people sleeping rough in Arfon. No part of Wales is immune to this crisis, and I am alarmed to hear of the concerns around an increase in rough sleeping in Bangor. I fully support Cllr. Catrin Wager in her discussions with Bangor homelessness agencies and hope that something can be done quickly in order to offer extra shelter to those who need it.
The concerns for homelessness in Bangor and in many other parts of Wales was debated in the Senedd last week. Plaid Cymru led a National Assembly debate into the growing crisis of homelessness and rough sleeping in Wales, calling on the Welsh Government for a “root and branch” change of policy and a change of philosophy towards homelessness and rough sleeping.
In recent years, homelessness and rough sleeping has grown exponentially due to UK Government welfare changes and a lack of affordable and suitable accommodation. Plaid Cymru has argued for a move towards a housing first policy, which would offer a guarantee of housing to those that need it and ending the system of priority need, which penalises those judged not a priority, particularly young men, and which deters vulnerable people from seeking housing help and support.
Plaid Cymru has also criticised the Welsh Labour Government for its slow movement in dealing with homelessness and the haphazard way in which it has chosen to deal with the problem, rather than a concerted policy agenda.
Sian Gwenllian added: “I was recently saddened to hear reports of plans by Windsor council to clear the streets of homeless people before the royal wedding. Rough sleepers are people too and we should stop treating them as being somehow ‘other’ and as being deserving of their circumstances. Homelessness can happen more easily than one would imagine and we should be empathic towards people in this situation. We should also make it an underlying principle that nobody should be without a roof over the heads.”