Cardiff: Living on the Streets

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Spotlight on Cardiff’s homeless raises questions

A new series of three 30-minute programmes starting tonight on BBC One Wales is likely to generate plenty of interest and raise serious questions about the situation of Cardiff’s homeless at the start of 2017. Cardiff: Living on the Streets begins on Tuesday 31 January at 10.40 p.m. on BBC1 Wales and all three programmes give a powerful, and sometimes hard to watch, insight into the lives and issues faced by people living on the streets in Cardiff.

Rough sleeping and begging on the streets of Cardiff has visibly increased, and this is a huge concern to all of the services trying to engage with homeless people to help and support their move off the streets, as well as to a city that is developing its reputation as a thriving and attractive European capital. 

Richard Edwards, Chief Executive of Huggard said, “Huggard was glad to support Gritty Productions Ltd in the making of these hard-hitting programmes and hopes that they will raise awareness and questions about how Cardiff can best support some of the most excluded and vulnerable individuals in our city.”

Whilst Huggard provides the largest number of emergency beds for rough sleepers in the city, it is not the only service provider, but Huggard is often asked why people are told by homeless people on the streets that they would rather sleep in a doorway than in emergency accommodation provided by Huggard or other providers in Cardiff. The answer to this question is not straightforward and to some extent reflects the social and personal issues that cause homelessness and affect homeless people.

It is often assumed that there must be something wrong with the services of Huggard and other providers, and as an organisation working with and accommodating rough sleepers, and wanting to avoid complacency, this is a question Huggard often asks itself. People are still ‘choosing’ to sleep in doorways rather than access emergency bed spaces and this means that all of the service providers in Cardiff must constantly review and assess their own services to ensure that they are as accessible as possible to vulnerable people on the streets. There is a lot of communication between service providers, particularly around meeting the needs of specific individuals on the streets, and this helps to shape provision. So why is there still a problem?

Poor mental health can often be a huge barrier for homeless people to access support and accommodation. Services working with homeless people in Cardiff are constantly seeking to provide access to mental health support and many organisations, including Huggard, provide mental health first aid training to staff, as well as working closely with Cardiff and the Vale’s mental health Assertive Outreach Team. What else can be done?

In Cardiff, there has been a huge growth in visible street culture activities, including begging and street based substance misuse, and often these two issues go hand in hand. Huggard has seen a huge increase in the use of heroin among the homeless community in Cardiff and we provide support and harm reduction services, but these services are under strain due to the increase in demand and limited funding.

Such addictions are both desperate and expensive and there are some individuals in the city who prioritise their need to generate money on the streets above their need for shelter. This presents a real problem to emergency accommodation services which need to close their doors at a reasonable hour to minimise disturbance and allow those accessing the service to get a night’s sleep.

But if someone is genuinely reliant on begging for their only income, why will they often, quite understandably, create or embellish stories to explain why they can’t or don’t access the services that are there to help them? Richard Edwards explains that “Huggard works regularly with a number of rough sleepers who often tell members of the public that they don’t access our services, for one reason or another, in order to create necessary sympathy and support. What is important is that the public continues to support services that are geared up and experienced in helping people off the streets.”

It is important to note that many rough sleepers do not have a substance misuse issue and never beg. Many rely on established services such as Huggard’s day centre which provides free soup and meals, together with advice and support, the Wallich’s breakfast run, the Salvation Army’s Bus Project and the churches’ evening soup run to meet their needs. In turn, as a charity, Huggard is dependent on funding, financial support and donations in order to provide these frontline services effectively.

Richard Edwards explains, “The life expectancy of someone sleeping rough in the UK is 47, our task is to engage with people and provide them with the support to get them off the streets rather than only providing basic services that meet their immediate needs.”

Huggard would urge everyone to watch Cardiff: Living on the Streets. More info can be found here: 

You can donate to Huggard’s work here:


  • In the three months from October to December 2016, Huggard accommodated 268 different people in our emergency overnight accommodation (a 12% increase on 2015)
  • Our day centre supported 804 different people (a 28% rise on 2015), of which 538 had not been accommodated at night by any of Huggard’s projects (a 43% rise on 2015)
  • During this period the day centre ran 197 development activities to build confidence, improve independent living skills and employability. This shows that many people are coming to Huggard and the use of our services is unfortunately growing.
  • In 2016 we generated £1.3m in benefits for people referred to and accessing the day centre and this has enabled many to break their dependence on begging and to engage with accommodation services that require them to be in receipt of Housing Benefit.
  • This is a service that Huggard feels needs to expand to meet the growing and complex needs of those seeking our advice and support.
  • On occasion, Huggard may need to exclude someone from our service due to them presenting a serious risk to other service users or staff. While we try to keep these necessary exclusions to a minimum, and for the shortest period of time, there will occasionally be people who have no alternative but to sleep rough. When this happens Huggard will provide bedding and suitable clothing.
  • In Cardiff, over the summer months, there are 45 emergency bed spaces provided by four organisations, of which Huggard provides 20 spaces.
  • In the winter months of 2016/17, this number increased to 97 bed spaces, of which Huggard provides 40. The others are provided directly by the Council, The Wallich, Cardiff YMCA, the Salvation Army and the churches, who all do a fantastic job.
  • Groucho Marx once said “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member”, and of course there are a very small group of entrenched rough sleepers in the city that do not want to either engage in any services or be around other homeless people. Cardiff Council employs an excellent outreach team that works with these entrenched rough sleepers, supporting their welfare and encouraging them towards appropriate services.
  • There are some people begging on the streets of Cardiff who are often assumed to be homeless but have accommodation and these numbers are seen to increase in the city when there are major events on. 
  • In the run-up to Christmas, but not exclusively so, some of the most lucrative times for begging are in the small hours of the morning when office Christmas parties come to an end and people are making their way home from pubs and clubs in the city centre.
  • On a single day in the run-up to Christmas in 2016, Huggard’s day centre, which provides an unparalleled range of services, provided support to 32 rough sleepers who spent the previous night on the street, in addition to the numbers who accessed emergency and hostel accommodation across the city.





Staff of Henry Shein Get Their Teeth Into ‘Being Angels For a Day’


A big thank you to Natasha, Jo, Catherine, Jessica, Louise and Mark from Henry Shein Minerva Dental Ltd, Cardiff for earning their wings being ‘Angels for a Day’.

Henry Schein is a worldwide distributor of medical, dental and veterinary supplies including vaccines, pharmaceutical products and financial services.

Team Henry Shein Being Angels for a Day

They’re really looking forward to coming back to help Huggard again soon.

Once again thank you from all the Staff, Volunteers, friends and Clients at Huggard xx



For Further Information on ‘Being an Angel for a Day’, follow this link





Locking People Up is not the Key to Solving Homelessness


Left, Richard Edwards of the Huggard Homeless Centre. Right top, Cardiff prison and beneath, Colin Capp

Huggard Centre boss Richard Edwards calls for support for those on the streets after the sentencing of Colin Capp for the murder of Darren Thomas

The head of a homelessness shelter says beggars need help rather than punishment after a man was killed in jail while serving time for pleading for handouts in Cardiff.

Head of the Huggard homelessness centre Richard Edwards made the comments in the wake of Colin Capp’s life sentence for murdering Darren Thomas.

Capp used a ballpoint pen to stab Thomas in the neck 100 times while he slept in their cell in Cardiff Prison in March 2014.
Is jail appropriate for beggars?

Thomas, 45, was inside for begging – he had breached an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) preventing him going into Cardiff city centre to plead for handouts.

Edwards said: “I don’t feel it’s appropriate (to jail the homeless). I think we need to be looking first at the levels of support we can offer people who are engaging in street culture activity.”

Before Thomas was earlier jailed in 2011 a court hearing was told he would approach people “at random”. But police said he targeted lone women on their way to work in the morning, who felt intimidated.

He had stayed at Cardiff’s Huggard shelter for the homeless between May and August of 2012.

Darren Thomas, 45 a prisoner who was discovered unconscious by guards at Cardiff prison and was declared dead 35 minutes later.
Prisoner Darren Thomas, 45, was found dead in his cell on March 6 last year

Edwards, who said using ASBOs against beggars can be appropriate provided help is also being offered, added: “While I’m aware that Darren was engaging in quite aggressive begging activities it’s unfortunate that in Darren’s case it had to result in imprisonment.”

Thomas had just started a 12-week sentence at the prison when he was attacked by Capp.

The 23-year-old killer, from Scotland, had suggested he was suffering paranoid schizophrenia, but a psychiatrist said he had a personality disorder and knew what he was doing.

Cardiff Central MP Jo Stevens said Britain’s under-pressure prison system should be reserved for dangerous offenders.

Last year the Ministry of Justice was forced into trying to re-employ more than 2,000 prison officers who had recently taken voluntary redundancy.
‘Prison won’t help’

The Labour MP said: “Prison is not the sort of place that is going to help people like Darren. If he had been a threat to the public that may have been a reason for giving him a custodial sentence.

“He wasn’t safe out on the streets and clearly wasn’t safe inside prison.”

Last year following Thomas’ murder Shelter Cymru said jailing the destitute – who need help and often have mental health problems – is “expensive” and “pointless”.

Cardiff Retail Partnership, which represents the city’s businesses, has in the past lobbied police to clear the streets of beggars.

Before the Olympic Games in 2012, they urged police to use the then 188-year-old Vagrancy Act to rid the city’s streets of homeless people.

At the time, South Wales Police said dealing with the homeless was a priority because it was of concern to businesses and residents.
‘Remarkably callous’

They said a “number” of ASBOs had been placed on beggars – insisting they were used when all other attempts to help had failed.

But Shelter Cymru called the campaign “remarkably callous” and suggested it treated the homeless like “inconvenient rubbish to be cleared away”.

The poor were similarly targeted in Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000), Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008), before those cities hosted the Olympics.

In 2007, the UN-funded Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) concluded the Olympics, having evicted more then two million people over twenty years, were one of the top causes of displacement and house price inflation in the world.

The report showed the evictions disproportionately affect the homeless, the poor and ethnic minorities.

Following Capp’s conviction, Thomas’s family issued a statement saying he died in a place where he should have been safe.

As Cardboard Cities Return, Councils Criminalise the Homeless

The Ark - Manchester


It’s never been unusual to see the odd rough sleeper on a park bench or a person begging outside a train station. But as homelessness increases it’s becoming just as common to see whole camps of people bedding down together in city centres or pitching up tents on green space.

Barely a month passes without a report of another camp springing up somewhere. One of the most well-known is The Ark in Manchester, a self-built shelter which, before it was removed, had sofas, a kitchen area and a generator to provide power. But there are many others.

But there’s also the tent city alongside a river in Bedford which became home to around 40 people. In Southampton, there’s a group of rough-sleepers who used cardboard boxes and tarpaulin to turn part of a historic monument into a camp. And there’s a group in Milton Keynes who set up a site behind a 99p shop. There are other examples in Bristol, Southend and Devon, to name just a few.

Earlier this year, reported on the camp in Manchester. The people staying there told us they felt more protected in a group than they did staying alone. “We feel safer sleeping in tents and sticking together. We know people who have been attacked, spat on and even set on fire while they were sleeping alone in shop doorways. We are safer this way,” said Ryan McPhee.

Government statistics show that rough sleeping in England has increased by 55% since 2010. The charities Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation are conducting a five-year study into homelessness which draws on a survey of councils, statistical analysis and in-depth interviews. Their annual report, which was published earlier this year, warned that a chronic shortage of affordable housing combined with cuts to benefits and homeless services would see rough sleeping continue to rise across England.

As the problem becomes more visible, some local authorities are coming up with controversial ways to keep it out of sight. Last week, Bournemouth council came under fire for playing the sound of bagpipes and Alvin and the Chipmunks through speakers during the night to prevent homeless people from sleeping around the town’s Travel Interchange.

Earlier this year, Manchester council banned people from sleeping in tents in the city centre in protest against its homeless policies. And in recent months there has been widespread concern over the number of councils considering the use of Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) to ban homeless people from prominent areas.


In October, Oxford council voted for the introduction of a PSPO which will give it the power to fine beggars and buskers. Newport council recently set out plans to use a PSPO to ban rough-sleepers from the city centre, ahead of the opening of a new shopping centre. It was later forced to back down after the proposals were slammed by charities. Councils in Liverpool and London have also considered similar plans.

The civil liberty organisation, Liberty has raised serious concerns with many of these councils about their plans, warning that some might be in breach of the human rights act. “We’ve seen a rash of proposed PSPOs nationwide which risk criminalising the most vulnerable in society,” says Rosie Brighouse, the legal officer for Liberty.

“Sleeping rough isn’t anti-social behaviour – it’s poverty. Yet rather than alleviate such hardship these Orders simply fast-track so-called ‘offenders’ into the criminal justice system.”

With many homeless services facing budget cuts, it’s hard to see the situation improving any time soon. And this type of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ thinking from councils is doing nothing to tackle the problem. All it does is move it somewhere else and in some cases exacerbate it – how is fining a homeless person going to help anybody? Rather than trying to hide the issue away, councils have a duty to protect their most vulnerable people and at the very least to ensure everybody has a roof over their heads.





From star student to homeless drug addict

Luke in the Huggard Day Centre Kitchen


A student who became a homeless drug addict at 19 years old after his parents and grandparents died within months of each other has spoken about his battle to turn his life around.

Luke Saunders, now 22, nearly died twice from overdoses.

Now he is studying to be a nurse and has a part-time job at Cardiff’s Huggard Centre which he says “saved my life”.

The former Lewis School Pengam pupil, who has 13 GCSEs, said he wanted to share his story to show how easy it is for lives to shatter.

Luke, originally from Hengoed, was studying child development and Ystrad Mynach College hoping to be a teacher when his parents and grandparents died within four months of each other in early 2012.

Living alone in a council house, grieving with no support he dropped out of college, self-medicated with drugs including cocaine and dropped from 11st to 6st in weight.

Within months of his relatives dying he was evicted from his council home because of anti-social behaviour and took an overdose “as a cry for help”.

‘Drug overdoses nearly killed me’

Admitted to hospital and then a psychiatric unit he was discharged within three weeks and became homeless.

“I slept under the playground in Ystrad Mynach park where I’d played as a kid. I was really scared. “I had no sleeping bag and thought I’d be beaten up or murdered.

“I grew up just a regular kid. I liked drama and reading. I was a bit of a nerd and got 13 GCSEs.”

High on cocaine one day Luke walked from Hengoed to Merthyr where he collapsed and soon afterwards took a second overdose.

“I was desperate. I bottled everything up and thought everything was my fault.

“Being homeless is scary. I thought I would die.”

Luke Saunders with Huggard Centre chief executive Richard Edwards

Treated at the poisons unit at University Hospital Llandough he then became homeless again and staff suggested he went to the Huggard.

“I came in in October 2012 a quivering mess with cuts on my arms from self-harming.”

Given a place in the 20-bed hostel he worked with staff over 18-months to get his life back on track. Now living in a council flat in Rhymney Luke is studying a nursing foundation course at Cardiff and Vale College, has applied to do a mental health nursing degree and is working three nights a week at the Huggard as a night worker.

“Things can happen very fast depending on your circumstances,” he said.

“I became homeless very fast. I was young and had no help. If it had not been for the Huggard I think I would be dead. They gave me support and confidence in myself.”

Huggard chief executive Richard Edwards said Luke was told to live away from the centre for several months to prove he had got back on track before being allowed to apply for a job as a night worker.

‘I hope I am a role model’

Luke now works at the homeless shelter for 12 hours three nights a week as well as studying a nursing foundation course at Cardiff and Vale College.

He has applied to university to start a nursing degree next year and wants to become a psychiatric nurse.

“I hope I am a role model to some of the people I help here now,” he said.

“I think it helps that I have been there myself.”

Richard said: “He has had nothing but praise from staff since starting his job here earlier this month.”

Welsh win UK generosity stakes, says study

Wales is the most generous nation in the UK


Wales is the most generous nation in the UK, with 80% of people saying they had donated money to charity in the previous year, according to a new study. New figures published today by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) revealed that Northern Ireland is the second most charitable region with 75% of people donating money in the previous year, followed by 65% of people in Scotland.

England came last, with a mere 62% of the population said they had donated to charity in the previous 12 months.

A great chance to donate

The data is published ahead of #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving on December 1, following Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

People in countries across the world will be marking the day by making donations, volunteering their time or simply spreading the word about a good cause.

The campaign, led by CAF, is being held in the UK for the second time.

It is supported by a wide range of celebrities and sports stars, including musician and broadcaster Cerys Matthews, Olympic gold medallist Hannah Cockcroft, Downton Abbey’s Joanna Froggatt, former Dr Who David Tennant, and TV presenter Dan Snow.

Cerys Matthews said: “Wales is a generous nation and it’s wonderful to see that this is recognised in the research. By donating money to causes you care about, it’s a step towards helping to make a difference in the world.

“The #GivingTuesday campaign is an opportunity for everyone to come together and contribute to the invaluable work done by charities.  On 1 December I’ll be supporting Shelter Cymru which helps homeless people in Wales.”

A third of UK getting involved

Previous research by CAF suggests that one in three people in the UK plan to make a charitable donation on #GivingTuesday.

Kim Roberts, the UK #GivingTuesday Campaign Manager said: “People across the UK are incredibly generous and supportive to causes they care about – whether they are local community initiatives or national charities.

“There is an enormous number of charities and businesses making plans for #GivingTuesday and the day is set to be bigger and better this year. We are calling on everyone, everywhere to seize whatever opportunity they can to get involved.”

Ex-homeless Luke helps charity take in twice as many over winter

Luke in Huggard Day Centre Kitchen

In 2012, Luke became homeless at the age of 18 after experiencing a tragic bereavement. Now he is back on his feet and helping others to rebuild their lives at the Huggard Centre, which is now doubling its intake by taking in over 40 rough sleepers each night over the winter period thanks to extra winter funding from Cardiff Council.

“I came to the Huggard Centre, in Cardiff, at the lowest point in my life. My mental health was suffering terribly and I had turned to alcohol and drugs to escape the trauma I had experienced”.

My keyworker at Huggard was fantastic. She not only put up with all of the emotional baggage I brought with me, she really believed in me. I felt empowered to address my problems, rather than bottle them up.

Huggard took me in and arranged counselling and substance misuse support and this helped me turn a corner. I started further education and am studying nursing at Cardiff and the Vale College.

Now, I also have a job with Huggard as a Night Worker over the winter months, where we take in extra rough sleepers every night to stop them sleeping on the streets and provide them with the help and support they need. Three years ago that was me.

Without the support that Huggard gave me, my life would still be in tatters. I would still be on the streets. I would still be on drugs and self-harming. Huggard believed I could come through this and I did. This has made me more determined to help others and to be a living example that things can get better even when it seems impossible to even imagine a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Huggard’s Chief Executive, Richard Edwards said “We have a fantastic staff team and Luke is a beacon of hope to everyone we work with and is a constant reminder to all of us of the difference we make every day to people’s lives.”

Huggard’s emergency overnight accommodation shelters over 40 people – approximately double the number (from 1st November 2015 until the end of February 2016) of places we can normally offer to the homeless and vulnerable; these clients would otherwise be sleeping rough on the streets of Cardiff, throughout the winter.

This is in addition to a 20 bed hostel and 53 tenancies in shared houses across the city, together with extra tenant support and help with bonds for private rented housing.

The flag ship of Huggard’s services is its unparalleled Day Centre for homeless people that is open every day of the year, providing food, washing and laundry facilities as well as support, advice, training and many other opportunities. Last year Huggard saw 32,000 visits from just over 1,700 different homeless and vulnerable people.

Richard Edwards added “With the winter upon us, our services are a vital life line to many. Without the continued support of the community of Cardiff, we are unable to do everything that we do for the people who genuinely need our help the most. The extra funding from the Council to accommodate rough sleepers at night makes a real difference, but we are still struggling to fund the day time support to homeless people that can really help to turn lives around.”





‘Call Out’ for Huggard Sewing Classes

Last Year's Xmas Party with SVC and Student Volunteers

Last Year’s Xmas Party with SVC and Student Volunteers

Huggard are hoping to start some weekly sewing classes and have found a tutor but they are in need some supplies to get us up and running.

They are looking for donations of:

  • Fabric: We have all the fabric we need now 🙂 A big thank you to all our donators for their kindness xx
  • Batting
  • Scissors
  • Rulers
  • Thread
  • Cutting Boards
  • Sewing Needles
  • Sewing Machines (in good working order)

If you think you can help please contact (Huggard Development Officer).

As always, thank you for your support





Spreading the Dirt

RunningTwo Huggard Staff have ‘Spread the Dirt’ around in aid of Cancer Research.

On Saturday members of Huggard Tenant Support Team took part in Pretty Muddy 2015, Cardiff in aid of Cancer Research.

The team have benefitted from support and advice accessed from this great charity over the past year and wanted to say thank you for helping us help our clients by raising some much needed funds for them and …… getting muddy!!!

It was a great day in the sunshine with smiles, mud and flouncy tutus all round.”

The two members of staff taking part were: Mo Lloyd and Jan Thomas, Tenant Support – Huggard. A big thank you for ‘spreading the dirt’ around from all staff, volunteers and clients xx