Homeless people in Cardiff 'lost count' of number who have died on streets

  • ITV Wales reporter Gwennan Campbell accompanied volunteers from charity Helping Our Homeless Wales on the streets of Cardiff. Words by Beth Thomas.

Homeless people in Wales' capital have said they have "lost count" of the number of people who have died on the streets as temperatures across the country drop to below freezing.

This week, temperatures in Cardiff have fallen below 0°C. They reached -2°C in the early hours of Thursday morning and are expected to reach -1°C in the early hours of Friday.

Volunteers from Helping Our Homeless Wales, a self-funded charity, walk the streets of Cardiff every week to provide food, clothes and essential items to those on the streets.

We joined them on one of their rounds providing warm clothing and food to those who are rough sleeping.

"The need has got so much greater over the last six months. We’re now probably seeing three times the amount of people that we used to see. It’s quite a desperate situation in Cardiff," Kelly De-Winton, a volunteer with the charity in Cardiff said.

ITV Wales reporter Gwennan Campbell with the team as they hand out hot drinks Credit: ITV Wales

Before going out on Monday evenings, the team load up a van and trolleys with emergency items for a night on the streets including bedding, sleeping bags, warm clothing, hot drinks, snack packs, and toiletries.

"It looks like an awful amount that we take out but we actually run out every time that we’re out," Kelly said.

"Our main commodity at the moment is food. We were doing 30 meals, we’re now trying to get that up to 90 meals per week so you can see that the demand is so high."

In November last year, 56-year-old Richard O'Brien was found dead outside the Burger King on Queen Street after becoming unwell during the night. He was the third rough sleeper to die in the capital last year.

"Over the last two months I've lost count of the amount of people who have died just through being on the streets," Joseph, a homeless person in Cardiff, told ITV Wales.

"It's disconcerting to know that there are that many people who are in this situation and they're just not getting the help that should be provided to them.

"If anything, you could class it as crimes against humanity at this rate. You're taking away people's basic human right to survive."

According to the latest statistics from the Welsh Government, the number of households assessed as homeless between 2022 and 2023 was 12,537 - a 7% increase on the previous year.

The same data revealed that 5,094 households were identified as unintentionally homeless and in priority need, which was an increase of 25% on the previous year.

Jason told us that he has been homeless for around seven years, "on and off."

"It’s terrible. We’re just dropping out here, like, we’re all dying. No one cares," he said. "No one cares at all. If we didn’t have these trolley people [the volunteers] we’d all be knackered.

"People are so judgmental out here. I’ve been sleeping by Subway and people have been drop kicking me in the face when I’ve been sleeping. You’ve got idiots going out having a drink then peeing all over you and they think it’s funny."

While we were out with the charity, around 90 people turned up for a hot meal and care packages. Scott Howell, a volunteer with the charity, says the situation in Cardiff is "getting worse."

"We started around seven years ago and we’d see 30-40 [people]," he said.

"We’re seeing around 90 people now on the streets who are wanting food and that’s not the total problem. Some people are sofa surfing or consider themselves not homeless but they still need the clothes, the food, the duvets and it's just getting worse every week."

Janet Finch-Saunders MS, Shadow Housing Minister, said: “There is a homelessness crisis in Wales and it is clear that Labour are not doing enough to get it under control.

“How many people need to be sleeping rough in Wales before the Labour Government and their cooperation partners in Plaid Cymru put their hands up and admit that there is a need for major housing policy reform in Wales?

“Throwing more money at the crisis is the wrong solution. The Labour Government need to take up the policies put forward by the Welsh Conservatives.”

The Welsh Government said in 2023-24, it is investing over £210 million in homelessness prevention and housing support services, and a record £330 million in social housing.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "The Welsh Government continues to take a no-one left out approach to homelessness so that regardless of the weather, no-one is forced to sleep rough in Wales.

"Rough sleeping is a complex issue and we’ve put in place new regulations and additional funding to support this and our wider ambition to end all forms of homelessness."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know…