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How come a modern, western, industrialised, liberal democracy like Wales, has homeless people living (and dying) on its streets?

17 July 2020

Poverty and destitution have been present in British culture for millennia. The loss of a dwelling place can be either a consequence of poverty or the first step on that path. After the great fire of London in 1666 it is thought that 70,000 people out of 80,000 residents lost their homes to catastrophic effect, resulting in displacement, destitution, starvation, and poverty. Scarcity of resources sets citizens against each other, with the result being a rise in crime and violence. Sound familiar?

In modern times, i.e. through the course of the last century, housing crises and poverty have continued to endure together. In George Orwell’s 1937 book ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’, he describes in graphic detail, the impact of housing shortage and poor-quality housing on the mining communities in the north of England. In 21st Century Wales we can see the legacy of a similar phenomenon first-hand. The areas of Wales that depended on the ‘heavy industries’, struggled to cope with the dramatic restructure of the labour market, and now we witness generational unemployment poverty and homelessness.

The stark realities of the decent into poverty and housing crisis came to the wider public’s attention in 1966 with Ken Loach’s BBC TV play ‘Cathy Come Home’. It was in the 1960s that charities addressing the issue of homelessness came to the fore in a meaningful way in the UK. 

Organisations like the Simon Community and the Cyrenians are the great grandparents of organisations like Goleudy. Over the last six decades efforts to prevent and alleviate homelessness have becoming increasingly more professional, shifted from being predominantly funding by charity fund-raising activity to being state funded. There are now many highly professionalised charitable organisations throughout the UK, heavily funded by the public purse attempting to tackle this problem.

An independent observer would have to ask the question, how come the problem is not solved?

In 2019 the national homelessness charity Crisis marked their 50th Birthday as an organisation. They held a series of consultation events around the UK which culminated in the publication “EVERYBODY IN”. Essentially discussing what needs to happen so we are not all still here in another 50 years doing the same thing.

Goleudy has existed as an organisation since 1975, we began life as “Swansea Action for Single Homelessness”, providing night shelters and hostels. We became Caer Las in 1992, and until now have provided a diverse range of services across South Wales. In 2019 our Board of Trustees agreed to change our name to Goleudy and adopt a very ambitious business plan.

In recognition of the dangers of doing what we have always done and being astounded that we continue to get the same results, we are committed to embracing radical change. In my next post I will be talking about exactly what it is we have already changed, and what lies ahead of Goleudy.

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