A police boss is taking to the streets of Wrexham to experience first hand exactly what life is like for the growing number of homeless people in the town.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones will be taking part in the sponsored Day on the Streets organised by AVOW – the Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham – on Saturday 15th July.
Mr Jones will take to the streets as part of a group of between 20 and 30 people and spend 12 hours, from 8am until 8pm, going through the same laborious and precarious routine followed by many homeless people.
At the same time as highlighting their plight, the former police inspector aims to raise as much cash as possible for the charity, Wrexham Homeless. Any funds raised will go towards supplying those in need with sleeping bags, tents, food and warm clothing.
Recent figures released by the Welsh Government revealed that Wrexham has the second highest rate of rough sleeping in Wales after Cardiff with numbers up nearly 60% in a year.
A snapshot sample taken last November revealed North Wales’s largest town had the most with 27 people spotted bedding down outside at night. The numbers were up 59% from the 17 people who were spotted during a similar count taken in November, 2015.
A local charity dealing with the problem says there are currently about 30 people homeless people in Wrexham.
Peter Jones, a substance misuse volunteer co-ordinator with AVOW who is organising the day, explained that similar sponsored events in the town have raised a few hundred pounds for the Wrexham Homeless Charity.
He continued: “It’s usually an overnight sleep-out to simulate the hardships of spending the night outdoors but this is the first time we’ll be doing it in the daytime. That’s because we believe 8am-8pm is the most difficult period for the homeless.
“The night shelter in Holt Road where many of the homeless spend the night closes at 8am and they have to leave which means they have to find somewhere to go until it opens again at 8pm.
“If they go into public buildings or bus shelters they can be moved on and if they have a Public Space Protection Order against them and go into the town centre they can be arrested for breaching it, so sleeping is the easy bit.”
The event next month will begin at the Ty Nos night shelter on Holt Road, before participants are spilt into groups and are dispersed across the town for 12 hours.
There will also be a visit to Ty Croeso adult support centre on Grosvenor Road during the morning for a cup of tea and slice of toast, however after that participants are on their own for the rest of the day.
Organisers say the event will be made as realistic as possible, with those taking part carrying only a change of clothes and a sleeping bag or blanket.
Tanya Jones, manager of the Wrexham-based Rough Sleeper Intervention Programme run by the charity Wallich and recently won the PCC’s People Award in his annual community awards, said Mr Jones’s involvement in Day on the Streets was very welcome.
“It’s incredibly important for him to be taking part and helping to raise the profile of homeless people in Wrexham,” she said.
“Being homeless is not just about sleeping out overnight but also the long daytime hours when people have nothing in their pockets and nowhere to go and are constantly being moved on.
“Our clients have to deal with this for months and months on end. It can be soul-destroying and very lonely. It’s important that the PCC sees this at first-hand.
“The number of homeless people in Wrexham is escalating and it doesn’t look like there will be any decrease in the figures. We estimate there are currently about 30 people either accessing the local night shelter or sleeping rough.”
Arfon Jones said: “It should be a very interesting and informative exercise and provide a real insight into the homeless problem in Wrexham.
“Lots of people see a person suffering homelessness as spending their nights on the streets but for the rest of the time they are sitting on park benches and in doorways day after day, week after week, month after month. They’re often asked to move on in all weathers carrying everything they own in a rucksack or carrier bag.
“On July 15 we’ll be experiencing exactly what this is like without funds and walking the streets.”
He added: “The reason I’m getting involved is that there’s a lot of correlation between substance abuse, mental health issues and homelessness.
“The symptoms of all three of these things are similar – anti-social behaviour and criminal activity – because often the only way a homeless person can survive is by shoplifting and the only way they can feed themselves is via a charitable organisation.
“If you are able to reduce the level of homelessness you can reduce harm to the individual who is homeless, reduce crime and offending and provide reassurance to the public who are fearful of homeless people.
“Everyone is welcome to come and join us on July 15 and together we can hopefully make this a massive success.
“I have set up a sponsorship page on Just Giving and my initial target figure is £500, although I’m hoping to raise quite a bit more.”
For those wishing to help sponsor forms are available from Ty Croeso at 31a Grosvenor Road, Wrexham, LL11 1BT, or via Mr Jones’s sponsorship page.