Housing Minister discusses innovative approaches to supporting people out of homelessness with The Salvation Army

published on 18 Jan 2019

Chris Yvonne Connolly and Julie James

The Welsh Government’s Housing and Local Government Minister - Julie James, met the team behind a pioneering programme on Thursday which helps rough sleepers to rebuild their lives.

Housing First Cardiff is a project run by The Salvation Army’s Homelessness Services Unit in partnership with Cardiff Council and has been operating for just over a year.

It uses the internationally-recognised housing first model which sees rough sleepers moving off the streets and straight into a new home.

Once they’re in their new homes people on the programme receive a range of tailored support services to help them keep a roof over their head.

“Housing first can help people who are homeless and who often have complex needs including mental illness, problems with drug and alcohol abuse, poor physical health and a lack of a wider support network”,  said Julie James. 

“This project is supporting some of the most vulnerable people in Wales to move away from living on our streets.  I share the determination of everyone here at The Salvation Army, across the local authorities and charities working to tackle homelessness and improve the lives of people who find themselves without a secure, suitable home.” 

In December the Welsh Government awarded funding to Housing First Cardiff and The Salvation Army also received a grant to deliver a housing first project in Merthyr Tydfil.

Yvonne Connolly, Regional Manager for The Salvation Army’s Homelessness Services Unit Wales and the South West said:

“It was a pleasure to discuss with the Housing and Local Government Minister the ground-breaking results that have been achieved by the Housing First Cardiff programme with some of the most marginalised and hard to reach people in our capital city.

“Housing first is a lifelong model which supports individuals out of rough sleeping by first making them a tenant in their own home and intensive, assertive and flexible support to maintain tenure of the property is offered throughout.

“Housing First Cardiff is a unique housing first project in Wales because of its 100% commitment to all of the principals of Housing First and its strong partnership framework. This was acknowledged by it winning the ’Homelessness Prevention Award’ at the Cymorth Cymru Promoting Independence Award at the end of last year.”

During her visit, the Minister met Chris, who is a tenant of the Housing First Cardiff programme. Here is Chris’s story: 

“I had a very happy childhood in South Wales and worked as a youth worker and a teacher of English which I did for almost 25 years. I then went travelling and visited and worked in countries including Brazil, France, Poland, Belarus, Russia, and Turkey. During this time I began drinking heavily and I came back to the UK in 2003 to seek help for my drink problem. It didn’t work out and by 2006 I was in jail. 

“When I was released from prison in 2011 I ended up coming back to Cardiff and for a while I was sofa-surfing and trying to find a job. I had difficulties finding work because of my time in jail and I refused to make contact with organisations that could’ve helped me at the time – such as The Salvation Army and Shelter, because I wanted to be independent. That’s when I found myself living in a van – or camping - depending on the weather, and I did that until 2016. 

“In about September or October of that year that I contacted The Salvation Army’s outreach service and I met Cath from the Homelessness Services Team. It was decided that I was suitable candidate for the project she was running – Housing First Cardiff, because while I was living in the van I’d been paying the MOT, fuel, tax and maintenance, so I clearly had budgeting skills and was able to demonstrate I had the wherewithal to have a flat and pay my bills. 

“I’ve got my own house now and I arranged to have a smart meter installed a fortnight ago and I’m currently £100 in credit with my gas; £70 in credit with the electricity and £40 in credit with the water bill. I’ve also got some savings. Housing First Cardiff has changed my life dramatically –  I’m not isolated anymore and I’m part of my community. I get on extremely well with my neighbours and I live in a friendly community – I even got my first round of Christmas cards this year. I wouldn’t change it for anything.

“Housing first is ideal for me and I’d like to continue to receive support from Jemma, my support worker, from Housing First Cardiff. The regular support and encouragement I get from her through the Housing First Cardiff programme is invaluable and she has given me a chance to make something of myself.”