A Christian charity has said homelessness in Wales could become a thing of the past thanks to a progressive policy from the Welsh Government.
Housing Justice Cymru has applauded the Welsh Government's Homelessness Plan, which includes investing nearly £100 million to ensure everyone in Wales has a safe place to live and a clear path into long-term stable housing.
Bonnie Navarra, director of the organisation, described the plan as "a hugely exciting opportunity for Wales".
"I think we're very fortunate to have a really forthright and challenging First Minister at the moment," she said. "That has meant… we have committed to ensuring that during and post-pandemic that nobody has to go back to the streets, so nobody has to return to sleeping rough. And in order to enable that to happen, our Welsh Government have made some really bold commitments."
Navarra said the key policy change that will make a big difference in homelessness is the removal of 'Priority Need' rule. It means that anybody can now access accommodation, regardless of immigration status.
Other changes made during the pandemic include improving standards set for temporary accommodation, increasing notice period for evictions to six months, and creating a helpline for private-sector tenants at risk of homelessness. The government has also introduced a new low interest, affordable Tenancy Saver Loan scheme to support tenants in rent arrears because of Covid-19.
Compared to England, Wales has allocated more than triple the funding for tackling rough sleeping since the start of the pandemic.
"To be fair to central government, it is a different dynamic," Navarra said.
"In England, we do have far higher numbers of people … who are rough sleeping, and particularly in London. Of course, we know the numbers of rough sleepers in London are much, much higher that in Wales, and that only accounts for 7 per cent of the homelessness population. So it is a much greater challenge."
Navarra highlighted strategies that are working well for the homeless in Wales since the pandemic started.
"We've seen much better working together between all agencies, we've seen a huge commitment to people really finding accommodation solutions for individuals and recognising that we can't just offer anybody any accommodation, it has to meet their needs, otherwise they won't sustain that tenancy," she said.
"We've seen the Welsh Government turning to us as a Christian organisation, to help employ the support of faith-based organisations and voluntary groups across Wales, recognising the crucial role that we play in ending homelessness.
"That's been fantastic to see our churches being able to be part of the solution, right through up to strategic ministerial direction and policy changes. It's a really whole country approach and that's what it takes to dismantle homelessness."
Most Rev John Davies, Archbishop of Wales, who is chair of Housing Justice Cymru, has called on others in the sector to ensure their work also supports the approach and the efforts of local authorities to get everyone into the accommodation that is available.
"It is only by working with existing services and Local Authorities that we can make the most out of this unique opportunity before us and progress towards genuinely ending homelessness in Wales," he said.
"This may mean moving away from night shelters and soup kitchens, and instead directing people to their Local Authority who can house and support them.
"We have a golden opportunity before us in Wales. We must not squander it."
Listen to Premier's interview with Bonnie Navarra here: