Pioneering project to tackle homelessness marks first anniversary

published on 5 Feb 2020

Merthyr project

A pioneering project which is helping reduce the number of people experiencing homelessess in Merthyr Tydfil has just marked its first anniversary. 

Merthyr Tydfil Housing First is run by Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council in partnership with The Salvation Army.

Rough sleepers who want to take part in the programme are moved directly into their own home and given support for issues like substance misuse or poor mental health.  

The Salvation Army organised a celebration event in Merthyr Tydfil to mark the scheme’s first year, attended by the Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Public Protection Cllr Geraint Thomas and Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney Welsh Assembly Member Dawn Bowden AM.

Cllr Thomas said:

“Housing First is housing with no strings attached.  The person is found a home first and then comes support services to help meet their needs.  I’m delighted that we can now support the most vulnerable people in our society and extend my thanks to our officers and those of The Salvation Army in ensuring that we can do this.” 

Emma Paynter, The Salvation Army’s Assistant Regional Manager of its Homelessness Services Unit for Wales and the West said: 

“The feedback we have had from the people we work with on Merthyr Tydfil Housing First has been overwhelming; lives have been transformed. People are moving into a new home – a home that they can furnish and invite family and friends round for tea and they can see a future for themselves. 

“Our partners have been alongside us every step of the way and we have all worked together to ensure that Merthyr Tydfil Housing First puts the people first and we are investing all our energies to create the best environment and opportunity for a person to realise their potential and dreams.”

Dawn Bowden AM said:

“Thanks to Welsh Government funding, Housing First forms one part of the jigsaw and seeks to reach out and help people who are in desperate need. There is more to do in terms of the supply of homes and the affordability of homes to rent. However, Housing First is working and another important step forwards.” 

Tyler is now living in the Housing First Merthyr Tydfil programme and began drinking alcohol socially with colleagues while he was working on building sites.

But things got out of control and Tyler soon found himself turning up for work still drunk from the night before.

“I would go out most nights with the boys from the site and that was a lot of fun to begin with, but looking back now I can see that I was out of control. I was waking up and soaking up the alcohol from the night before with big fry-ups and drinking coffee to stay awake,” he recalled.

And when the building work dried up, Tyler moved in with his father and began drinking during the day.

“I was staying with my father at this time and that’s when I started buying cans to drink during the day – the strong Polish lager. I was looking for work and my own place to live and didn’t really have a lot to do at the time and was drinking a lot - up 20 cans a day,” commented Tyler.

Tyler’s drinking put pressure on his relationship with his father and so one day he moved out and ended up sleeping rough. 

“I ended up sleeping rough in Pontypool and Cardiff and that lasted about eight months. I got assaulted one night when I was sleeping rough and it wasn’t nice knowing that I had nowhere to go,” he recalled.

But when he came back to Merthyr, Tyler found temporary support accommodation through Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council and this is where he linked up with the Merthyr Tydfil Housing First programme.

“When I got onto Housing First, I felt like I was moving on again with my life and I knew it would be a big step forward for me.  The Housing First staff are great and they helped me out with sorting out my benefits, got me registered with a new doctor and they’re giving me all the emotional support I need. “I’m getting some structure and stability into my life and life can only get better for me. I feel good now – I can go home, lock the door, switch on the heating, get some food going and sit down to watch a DVD and I know that it’s my home. I feel I’m going up the ladder and life is on the up,” said Tyler.

Merthyr Tydfil

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