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6 December 2017

Rough sleeping crisis: make homes, not arrests

Dave Reid, Socialist Party Wales

The shocking death of a homeless 32-year-old woman who was sleeping in Alexandra Park in Cardiff should have spurred the city council and Welsh government to emergency action to provide accommodation.

Instead the authorities are cracking down on homeless people themselves, in a clampdown called 'Operation Purple Ash'. South Wales Police have started arresting homeless people.

Clearly the sight of dozens begging in the city centre is bad for business in the Christmas shopping season. There was a similar campaign to drive homeless people out of the city centre prior to the Champions League final in June.

Ironically, many of the high street chains who the council and police are assisting by removing homeless people are well-known tax avoiders. So they are refusing to contribute to solving the problem of homelessness.

The clampdown has been accompanied by a media campaign against beggars and homeless people - implying they are responsible for their plight, not the failures of the state. When homeless people are invisible there is little concern about the problem in the media.

People with mental health or drug problems form a high proportion of those forced to live rough. However it is not mental health or drug problems that have increased homelessness, but lack of affordable housing coupled with cuts in housing benefits.

Official figures indicate an increase of 7% sleeping rough in Cardiff in the last year. But surrounding cities and towns report increases of 67 to 93% - which appear more accurate. The sharp rise is in large part caused by government welfare attacks.

Many rely on relatives and friends when they are made homeless and do not appear in any statistics. But an increasing number do not have people to fall back on and find themselves on the streets.

Socialist Party Wales demands immediate steps to solve the crisis:

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