Time for Real Change

A new campaign aimed at building on the recent success in helping vulnerable people off the streets is being launched in the city today.


The Real Change campaign seeks to maintain  the progress achieved by homelessness services during the lockdown period when the number of people sleeping rough dropped to single figures and more people than ever before started accessing life-changing services available in the city.


The Council and its partners are determined not to lose the positive momentum achieved in supporting people away from life on the streets, as the city centre begins to exit lockdown. All partners are encouraging the public to  support  real, lasting change for the vulnerable people who they see on the street.


The campaign asks people not to give their spare change to those begging on the street, but instead to signpost vulnerable people to the services that can deliver real change in their lives.


Anyone with concerns about a person they see on the streets is being urged to send for help by texting ‘REALCHANGE' to 80800, giving the location of that person. The city's homeless outreach team will then be sent to check on the individual to encourage them to come in off the streets.


Considerable success has been achieved in housing homeless people over the last three months, with only a handful of very entrenched rough sleepers remaining outside.  A large amount of good quality accommodation has been made available, including in two large hotels, and health and support services have been made available to help these vulnerable clients to address their underlying needs.


Good work was already underway to reduce rough sleeping in the city thanks to the work of the award winning Multidisciplinary Homeless Outreach Team,but since the introduction of lockdown measures,more vulnerable clients than ever before are engaging with services, including drug replacement and therapeutic services.


Greater availability of accommodation and support has been a key factor in this change and the Council is committed to ensuring that this extra provision continues after the crisis is over. However another key change has been lack of begging opportunities during lockdown with less people drawn to the city centre.


Real Change seeks to raise awareness of Cardiff's wide range of services to support people on the path away from life on the streets and the success that has been achieved recently in making a real difference to people's lives. The campaign aims to increase public understanding of how best to support this work and how without the right interventions, individuals can remain outside, trapped in a harmful lifestyle.


Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities, Cllr Lynda Thorne, said: "Since lockdown measures came into force, we have helped 473individuals into our hostels and additional hotelaccommodation. 71 people have been referred into life-changing, drug rehabilitation programmes, many moving onto treatment within a matter of days of their initial consultation. That's 71 people who would more than likely still be struggling with drug dependency and misuse on the streets without our interventions - 71 people experiencing real change in their lives right now. Only five entrenched rough sleepers remain on the streets and we continue to work with them.


"We are committed to maintaining this improvement - there can be no going back!


"We have plans in place to maintain and improve the range of housing and support options available to homeless people in Cardiff but we need the public's help to ensure that vulnerable people are not drawn back to a life on the streets.


"We want people to understand that giving spare change doesn't achieve real change. The hundreds of people we help come inside every year haven't started rebuilding their lives with money they've been given on the streets. It's happened by accepting the accommodation and wrap-around support we have in the city to transform their lives.


"Some people who beg in the city centre actually have homes to go to, but that doesn't mean they don't need help. The real change our services are offering can address the complex issues behind why that person is out on the street in the first place.


"If people want to help by giving money, then local homeless charities and the city's alternative giving campaign, Give DIFFerently, will ensure that it is spent on that real, lasting change we all want to achieve.


"Lockdown gave us a unique chance to change the way we help people who sleep rough in the city.  The lack of spare change during this period has meant more and more people have chosen real change and are using the current circumstances to get back on track.


"We're working together with our partners to ensure that nobody has to be on the street and that the vulnerable people in the city can get access to the accommodation and support they need.


"We need the public to help us by thinking twice about giving money directly to individuals and instead to support real change in people's lives by not giving their spare change.


"I know that it's hard to walk past people in the street, so do stop and signpost them to our services, or send for help by texting ‘REALCHANGE' to 80800 and we will send our outreach team out to support them."


The city's rapid response to safeguarding vulnerable individuals on the streets during the COVID-19 outbreak saw the two hotels opened as additional emergency accommodation and shipping container homes used as isolation units for clients displaying coronavirus symptoms.


Support services such as nurse-led clinics at the hotels and existing hostels, therapeutic counselling, access to rapid prescribing services and the use of the new and improved drug substitute, Buvidal have contributed to the increased successful engagement with clients, resulting in the number of people sleeping rough in the city dropping to single figures.


The Council and homelessness partners in the city, including The Wallich, Huggard, YMCA and Salvation Army are now determined to build on this positive start.


The Council's vision for future provision includes a new assessment centre, bringing together health and homeless services with on-site emergency overnight accommodation; plans for additional Housing First places; intensive support to help vulnerable people move directly from the street into good quality self-contained accommodation; increasing the supply of accommodation that is specially designed for people with more complex needs by both developing new and upgrading existing provision.


Cllr Thorne added: "We've seen what can be done with the right accommodation and the right support. We have a fantastic opportunity here to make the most of clients' willingness to accept help, access our services and move forward.


"It would be devastating to see all this amazing work and progress undone, with individuals returning to the streets, to begging, substance misuse and the revolving door of homelessness.  People in Cardiff can help us to ensure we go forward not back. Please support real change by sending for help, and not by giving your spare change."


Huggard chief executive, Richard Edwards, said: "If we can make real progress in tackling street homelessness during the pandemic, we need to insist that this progress continues and is not undone or lost. Huggard welcomes the commitment by Cardiff Council to maintaining and increasing support and accommodation services to bring lasting real change.


"As the city centre opens up again, it is feared that people may be drawn back to begging opportunities on the streets and move away from the support and accommodation that has helped them over recent months.


"If you are worried about someone that you see on the streets, before you think about giving them your small change, try to bring about real change and make sure you request help for them. Huggard will continue to provide help and support around the clock and we need to hold Cardiff Council to its promise, and work in partnership with them, to bring real change for people experiencing homelessness in the city."