Temporary accommodation: Single people 'bottom of the pile' amid housing emergency

A father stuck in temporary accommodation having spent months in B&Bs and sofa surfing, has described feeling “forgotten” and “isolated” waiting for a permanent home. 

Luke Richards is currently living in a Bridgend HMO (House of Multiple Occupancy) and is one of thousands of people feeling stuck in the system.

Single people often end up at the “bottom of the pile” and find it harder to be moved on from temporary accommodation, Shelter Cymru says.

And Luke, a community councillor, was even made to move from hotel accommodation as an Ed Sheeran concert meant rooms were booked out. He had to leave his former home due to an eviction notice in May 2022.

Temporary accommodation often doesn't include full cooking or washing facilities. Credit: Luke Richards

He told ITV1’s Sharp End: “Initially Bridgend County Borough Council didn't have anywhere for me to go, so for the first four days I stayed at a friend's house and then I was put in the Court Colman Hotel for ten days.

“After those ten days, Ed Sheeran came to Cardiff and there was nowhere in Bridgend for me to stay so they offered for me to go to Swansea. Now with my son in Bridgend, being unemployed and going back and forth - it was a no brainer that I couldn't do that.”

  • 'It feels like you're on parole when you haven't done anything wrong'

Luke then spent five months in the Atlantic Hotel in Porthcawl. Single people are often placed in B&B or hotel accommodation and are left without basic facilities as a result - and unable to stay over with family members.

He said: “It wasn't great. We had a microwave to cook with in our rooms and one of those mini can fridges kids have in their bedrooms. That was the only food storage we had.

“We were given a curfew of 10pm at night and if we needed to stay out at night we had to get permission from the council.

“It makes you feel like you're on parole or on licence having to abide by these rules when I and many others in that situation hadn't done anything wrong. It was very isolating.”

Freedom of information statistics show how many faced no fault evictions in Wales last year:

Jennie Bibbings, Head of Campaigns at Shelter Cymru, says most of the households in temporary accommodation across Wales are single person households.

She said: “Families tend to move on more quickly - single people often end up at the bottom of the pile. We've got lots of single person households in Wales but no one is building homes that meet the needs of single person households.

“The housebuilders want to build 3-bed and 4-bed family homes because it's more lucrative but one in three households in Wales is a single person. The types of homes that we're building aren't the right types to meet needs, especially if we want to move people on from homelessness.”

Luke has now been in a HMO in North Cornelly since October last year. 

“It really affects your mental health not having your freedom to be able to come and go as you please,” he said.

“Having to ask permission to stay a night with family member is degrading. You don't feel like a person anymore.

“The communication is awful between the council and their clients in the system. I haven't spoken to my housing officer for seven months now, even though I've emailed and tried calling.”

A Sharp End freedom of information request found at least 4,500 households presented themselves to council housing teams after being issued with a Section 21 notice in 2022.

Bridgend County Borough Council said it is committed to working towards Welsh Government’s aim of ending homelessness in Wales by working with key partners to solve this important challenge.

A spokesperson for the council said: “In line with other local authorities, there are unprecedented demands on our housing service and the number of cases is still higher than before the start of the pandemic.

“In order to ensure that relevant crucial support is in place, we take a multi agency approach and work in partnership with the third sector to make sure that those who are either homeless or in temporary accommodation get the help that they both need and deserve.”

The representative body for providers of homelessness, housing and support services in Wales, Cymorth Cymru, said the situation is the worst it’s ever been.

Director Katie Dalton said successive governments have not made enough investment in social housing, so people don't have the affordable homes to move in to and there have to remain in temporary accommodation for long periods of time.

She said: “We're already playing catch up when it comes to social housing. This has to be a Welsh government and local authority priority. We were extremely disappointed with the Welsh Government's final budget.

“We'd called very strongly for an increase in the Housing Support Grant which funds the vast majority of the homelessness and housing support services in Wales. The reality is services will have to cut services and make staff redundant. They need 10% funding just to keep up with the cost of staff wages, rent, and utilities and if they don't get any more funding as a result of the Spring Statement then services will have to reduce and close.”

Luke, like many others stuck waiting in the temporary housing system, are in limbo until they have somewhere to move to.

“I can't make any plans, I can't do anything,” he said.

“I used to be able to spend more time with my son, have him at holidays. I can't teach him how to cook or play Nerf guns or just be boys.

“I could be here another 10-11 months, it's just a waiting game. My mental health, and my son's mental health, is getting worse and worse.”

Head of Campaigns at Shelter Cymru, Jennie Bibbings, explains why no-fault evictions are on the rise:

Ms Bibbings says Wales is in a housing emergency - with the highest number of no-fault evictions, ever.

She said: “It's never been this bad before. 

“Tenants are becoming homeless through no fault of their own and the reason is because it's so hard to find affordable homes now. Rents have gone up a lot in the last year - we've got 90,000 people on housing waiting lists.”

  • Twice as many entering temporary accommodation than leaving

Shelter Cymru is calling for a ban on no-fault evictions and building more social housing.

“Every month in Wales, the numbers of people who are going into temporary accommodation are around twice the numbers who are coming out of temporary accommodation into stable homes,” Ms Bibbings said. “The situation is becoming more and more pressured every month.”

“The UK Government has frozen housing benefit to the rate it was three years ago but rents have shot up since then, particularly in Wales.

“I think the most difficult part of it is not knowing how long you're going to be there. I recently heard a young man talking about being in temporary accommodation - he was feeling absolutely in despair at where he was living because of the rules and regulations you have to keep to, being home at a certain time, not having friends over, not staying out anywhere and he thought to himself, if this is what prison is like, I can probably survive prison. Because at least in prison you know when you're getting a release date.”

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