ANOTHER Sunday evening at the soup kitchen in Old Castle Road and people begin to arrive. Llanelli Online is seated in a corner of the room with a laptop and some microphones. Gary Glenister who runs the soup kitchen informs one and all that should they wish to speak to the press, they are welcome to join us at our table. Quite rightly, we are eyed with slight suspicion however we are regular visitors to Y Lle and we have become known to many who use the service. The young and the old arrive for a welcome bowl of soup, a bread roll and to stock up on whatever local businesses have chosen to give away. It is usually bread and pastries.
After a while of sitting like a brightly coloured parrot on our perch in the corner someone plucks up the courage to approach us. Very soon we are seeing a steady stream of people ready and willing to give their story. The room is full of chat, some laughter, lots of activity and above all compassion. The volunteers are often the first friendly souls some of the visitors have encountered all week. We hear of night after night struggles to stay safe and warm, lack of sleep and yes, fights with the demons of drugs and alcohol. A high percentage admit to having some mental health issues.
It is difficult to know where to begin. Name, age and place of origin and perhaps a rather obvious question of ‘how have you come to be in this position’ opens the flood gates and the testimonies of those who are subjected to the judgement and the wrath of many of us unfold. What becomes clear is the sheer desperation and hopelessness of the situation for many. Living in a doorway or a tent at this time of year and unable to navigate the minefield of bureaucracy to change anything is a common thread.
We begin this series of interviews with Ayden, an 18-year-old who has spent most of his life in care. A clean cut young man with a nice smile and with pride in his appearance. At 18 the care system discharges itself of its duties and more often than not these young people find themselves in accommodation, which at best is a dumping ground for those who have found themselves at the bottom of the pile in Llanelli society. It isn’t for everyone but more often than not it is the only option. In Ayden’s case he says he hated it and left. In doing so he has rendered himself homeless and slips further down the ladder to a point where he becomes invisible.
In a previous article on homelessness in Carmarthenshire we were told by the County Council: “In terms of rough sleepers, there is an annual count and none were identified in Carmarthenshire last year. In terms of homelessness in general, statistics are available in relation to all local authority areas at https://statswales.gov.wales .”
Ayden and the other people we spoke to on Sunday (Oct 15) disagreed with that view. Here is Ayden’s story: