Stories from the streets: 'I was moved by every person I met'

Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

By Andrea Byrne

In Cardiff, the number of people sleeping rough is not only evident - it’s growing.

Fifty-eight new rough sleepers have been identified in only six weeks, according to Cardiff Council.

A similar plight is echoed across our major towns and cities in Wales. For our current affairs programme Wales This Week, we wanted to tell the story of homelessness through the eyes - and words - of those sleeping out on the streets. The men and women who will be bedding down in doorways, subways and tents in our prosperous capital city this very night.

We spent a day and night meeting some of them, and filming their stories. The result was a remarkably powerful snapshot of the human tales behind the politics, policies and statistics. What we captured with John, Christina, Shaun, Luke and James was so revealing, we made the decision to dedicate a week of coverage on our Wales at Six news programme to highlighting homelessness and the complex issues around it.

More: Stories from the streets - An in-depth look at homelessness

Andrea heard from Christina, who has been homeless since she was eight years old. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

I was struck on a personal level by each and every individual story. And by how the system is being stretched - leaving more and more people, like you and me, without a home.

During the week, I was overwhelmed by the remarkable response to our special coverage both on air and online. The social media videos alone, which allowed each one of the people we had met to tell their own story, got a response beyond our expectations.

And the different elements we investigated on our news coverage as the week progressed enabled us to take an exclusive look at some rarely-seen aspects of homelessness - such as emergency ‘pods’ in a frontline hostel - and provided an opportunity to scrutinise specific problems like substance misuse and lack of housing.

Luke and Shaun are homeless and recovering heroin addicts. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Throughout the investigation, the story gathered its own momentum with attention from politicians and celebrities. The actor and campaigner Michael Sheen called on the First Minister to focus his mind on funding and support for the most vulnerable in our society. And the minister responsible for homelessness defended the Welsh Government’s efforts, but said he admitted he’s got a ‘moral and social responsibility’ to solve the rise in rough sleeping.

James has seen many of his dearest friends die on the streets. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

I will be following the progress of John, Christina, Luke, Shaun and James, as well as the people we met living in hostels temporarily. We have already received offers of help from the housing sector and from drug rehabilitation charities.

I will also be watching with interest to see how the government decides to budget for this growing problem. This feels like this something that just shouldn't be happening - and there cannot be a one size fits all solution. Fortunately, in the meantime, it’s clear there is a wonderful desire from volunteers and charities to do whatever they can for those that just want a roof over their heads. It seems like a basic expectation - though not one without its complexities.

If you missed 'Homeless: Stories from the Street' on Wales This Week, you can catch up here.