Meet Wayne: ‘I’m looking forward to Christmas thanks to The Salvation Army’
published on 6 Dec 2021
Being able to open his own front door and welcome people in this Christmas means the world to Wayne, who had been homeless on and off since he was 15.
For the 49-year-old it is the support of The Salvation Army’s Housing First Project that has helped him turn his life around, tackle his addictions and reconnect with his daughter and grandchildren.
Housing First in Cardiff prioritises providing people with a safe and warm home, then tackles the issues that led to homelessness in the first place, such as substance misuse or mental health problems.
On Christmas Eve, the team will drop off presents and food hampers to their clients and are especially proud of how far Wayne has come.
Catherine Docherty, Housing First Outreach Service Manager for The Salvation Army, said: “Often our staff are the only stable and kind relationship our clients have. On average, they have spent 14 years living in a cycle of rough sleeping or unstable accommodation. Many have suffered trauma, been in care or in prison, and have complex needs. The majority are people that other services have found challenging to support.”
Wayne said: “I spent previous Christmases in jail or on in a sleeping bag in a shop or office doorway to protect me from the wind and rain, so it’s really made a difference me having my own door and being able to invite people round for Christmas.
“The Housing First team will drop off festive lights and a pop-up tree for me to decorate. Last year, I couldn’t wait to open my present, which was a dressing gown. My support worker will ring me on Christmas Day too. My life has completely changed.”
Since he was 15 years old, Wayne had been homeless on and off and struggled with his mental health and a heroin and alcohol dependency.
With regular hostel accommodation not suitable, he was found a flat through the church and charity’s Housing First scheme.
Wayne explained: “I’ve made massive steps to get my life sorted because of them. When I first moved in, my support worker came over for an hour every day and we watched television together. I got to know the staff and build up a relationship and trust with them. It’s not just helping with appointments and things like that, it’s all of that stuff in between, which a lot of people take for granted.
“I love having my own front door so I know I can shut the rest of the world out. I was never going to be happy in a group or hostel setting. My life was so volatile before that I could not cope with a hostel environment, I did not need that stress or pressure.
“The best thing is that my daughter has come back into my life having not seen her for 20 years. My support worker was with me when I got a phone call from her and we were both in tears. I have got four grandkids so I’m trying to build up those relationships.
“I’m making my own choices, but I could only make those choices because of the support Housing First has given me. I wanted help in the past it just wasn’t there, with Housing First it has been, which is why I have been able to turn it round.”
Housing First launched in Cardiff in 2017, with homes provided by a housing association or the local authority and intensive support from The Salvation Army. Of the 27 tenancies created, 25 have been successfully sustained.
Catherine Docherty said: “The progress Wayne has made is in so many ways immeasurable. He is an incredible person achieving wonderful things and has been on an amazing journey with the support of the Housing First Team.
“It works on the principle that people have the right to an affordable and habitable home, they are entitled to flexible support for as long as it is needed, and individuals should have choice and control.
“Our approach is about stability for the vulnerable and marginalised. Our team get to know clients and support them with whatever they need for as long as they need, whether that’s advocacy, managing benefits, attending appointments, help with life skills, or reducing substance misuse.”
Recognised nationally as a best practice model, Housing First Cardiff is accredited by the Housing First Network, run by Cymorth Cymru (the body for providers of homelessness, housing and support services) and supported by the Welsh Government.