‘Homeless’ terminology ‘misleading’

COUNCIL chiefs in Carmarthenshire have called for a new homeless terminology, and insisted that rough sleeping is not a problem in the county.

Executive board members said the authority faced criticism for an apparently high number of homeless people, which they said put an image in the public’s mind of rough sleepers on the streets.

The reality, they said, was different.

“There is no evidence that we have sleeping on the streets problems, as there are in many counties,” said councillor Linda Evans, executive board member for housing.

She was introducing a new regional homelessness strategy, which aims to prevent homelessness arising and focus more efforts on people with complex needs.

Cllr Evans outlined some of the work already undertaken by the authority but said more was needed.

She added: “Homelessness, unfortunately, is stark reality of modern life. We in Carmarthenshire are committed to do everything to reduce it.”

Councillor Peter Hughes Griffiths said some people defined as homeless were in temporary accommodation, which could give a misleading impression when homeless figures were banded about.

Council leader Emlyn Dole agreed, and said: “When you say ‘homeless’, people think about the streets and pavements.

“Maybe we can look at that terminology, and maybe change that in the policy.”

Cllr Evans said people living in a crowded house could come under the homeless bracket. “It is misleading, really,” she said.

But she urged people facing homelessness to get in touch with the council to prevent problems spiralling.

In 2017/18 the council dealt with 1,488 requests for help, but only 162 of those were people who required immediate temporary accommodation.

Councillor Glynog Davies also called for new terminology, saying that “fingers have been pointed at us” because of reportedly high numbers of homeless people.

“We do need to think about a way of withstanding all this criticism that has been on us,” he said.

The council has a duty to develop a homelessness strategy under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, and has done so in combination with Ceredigion, Powys and Pembrokeshire.

Director of community services Jake Morgan said the word “homeless” was a statutory term, but that a “more sophisticated descriptor” was required.

“Under the blanket term ‘homeless’, there are many categories,” he said.

Mr Morgan also insisted that the council would act quickly if someone was identified as sleeping rough.

“I can absolutely assure you there will be an offer of emergency, urgent accommodation of somewhere warm,” he said.

“The only reason we fail with that sometimes are where people are chaotic and difficult to engage with because of mental health, and require a more sophisticated intervention.”

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