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Rapid response paves way to sustained and positive change

The rapid response of Cardiff Council and its homeless services partners to safeguarding vulnerable individuals on the streets during the COVID-19 outbreak has begun to reap significant benefits.


The number of people sleeping rough in the city has dropped to single figures while more and more clients have been receptive to positive interventions from services, particularly substance misuse services, that can help get their lives back on track.


More than 140 clients have been housed in the two hotels acquired by the Council in March to ensure people living in emergency accommodation and those on the streets were protected and cared for during the pandemic and could self-isolate effectively.


The shipping container homes the council has developed as temporary accommodation for families have been used as isolation units for any homeless individuals displaying coronavirus symptoms, while substance misuse services have been adapted quickly to meet clients' needs during the pandemic.


Support has included regular nurse-led clinics at the hotels and existing hostels, access to rapid prescribing services and the use of the new and improved drug substitute, Buvidal.


Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities, Cllr Lynda Thorne, said: "There's no doubt the  Coronavirus outbreak presented our services with tough challenges and we needed to move very fast to help people off the streets into safe, self-contained accommodation.   Our teams pulled out all the stops and are doing a tremendous job throughout this difficult time.


"Only five very entrenched rough sleepers remain on the streets now, and our outreach team will continue to work with these individuals, but when you consider that only a few months ago the figure was in the 80s, this is a huge achievement and one that must be sustained into the future.


"The lockdown period has created a unique set of circumstances and provided us with a real opportunity to engage with clients who up until now have been very hard to reach and resistant to offers of help.


"The lack of begging opportunities in the city centre has meant clients cannot afford to buy drugs or alcohol and have responded more positively to the support available to assist them off the streets for good.  Many more people have begun treatment programmes because they have been unable to fund the harmful addictions that have prevented them from coming off the streets in the past.


"I know that many concerned people think that they are helping if they give to someone begging, however in most cases this money will only help that person to maintain a harmful lifestyle.  Cardiff's homeless partnership is doing amazing work to help people transform their lives and the public can help with this work by giving to one of our partner charities or to Give Differently, rather than to those begging on the street.


"We've come a long way in a short time and want to ensure that this change continues by carrying on working with individuals to prevent a return to the streets, to begging and to substance abuse once current measures are lifted."


The Council has been reviewing homelessness services for single people, particularly those with very complex needs, for a number of months and has been learning from best practice in the UK and abroad to develop a range of future accommodation and support options.


Cllr Thorne added: "Our longer term planning was already underway before the current health emergency, but we can build on the success over the past few months to make a real change for the better in people's lives.


"There's been a radical shift in the uptake of services that can change people's lives and these past few weeks have demonstrated the success that can be achieved in tackling homelessness if the right accommodation and support is available.


"There can be no going back. We must focus on recovery and maintaining the significant progress made over this period."


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