WREXHAM is believed to have the second highest number of rough sleepers in the country behind Cardiff, according to latest figures from Statistics For Wales. But is the situation improving or has it worsened over recent years, and is enough being done to help get people off the streets? Liam Gotting spoke to Wrexham Council, homeless charities, and a current rough sleeper in Wrexham.

"We need more help," is the plea from a rough sleeper in Wrexham who has been living on the streets of the town for nine months.

John Williams, 53, was a painter and decorator, but says his life started to spiral following the breakdown of his 17-year marriage.

He left his home, sofa surfing for six months, before being forced onto the streets.

The Leader:

Ty Nos shelter on Holt Road in Wrexham

"I've worked all my life, I've paid my dues, paid my taxes, my national insurance always, and when I needed help from government, from the council, I didn't get it.

"I started getting benefits but it took so long for those to kick in that I didn't have any money. I was sanctioned by the council for a full six months with no pay.

"When my friends couldn't afford to put me up anymore, I had no choice but to start sleeping rough. That was nine months ago, and since then my benefits have stopped, and I haven't had any help from the council, from the government, from anyone.

"I'm forced to sit here on the streets and beg, and I hate the term beg because I ask people to help me, and I don't like to ask but I've got no choice.

The Leader:

Ty Nos shelter on Holt Road in Wrexham

"To make things even worse, if the police see me on the streets they tell me to move on, but where can I go? Where do they want me to move on to?

"Then sometimes they try to give you a fine for it, a fine that they know I can't afford to pay.

"It's hard, it's really hard."

Mr Williams said he is not allowed access to a GP due to having no fixed address, despite suffering a heart attack one year ago while sofa surfing due to the stress of his situation.

Mr Williams says living on the streets is only affecting his health even more.

"I had a heart attack a year ago because of the stress of the way I was living, the stress of the situation I found myself in.

"I can feel my health deteriorating every day that I'm out here. It's deteriorating and it's deteriorating fast."

Mr Williams finished by claiming that more money is pumped into unnecessary areas, rather than helping those who are forced to live on the streets, before saying that there is just not enough emergency accommodation for rough sleepers in Wrexham.

"I don't think there's enough money being put in to help people like me, people who are crying out for help.

"Instead, I see things like pavements being resurfaced that don't need resurfacing. Who is that helping?

"There's no room in the hostels, there's 16 beds for the entire homeless population of Wrexham.

"Sixteen beds just is not enough, we often get turned away from homeless shelters because there simply isn't enough room.

"We all need somewhere to say at night, somewhere warm, somewhere safe.

"We need more help."

The 16 beds that Mr Williams refers to are located at Tŷ Nos, a night shelter that offers overnight accommodation for those that would otherwise be sleeping rough.

Andrew Edwards, manager of the Tŷ Nos, on Holt Road, Wrexham, said he believes the number of homeless people in the town has increased in the last few years, making the work that the shelter does all the more important.

"When I started helping the homeless in Wrexham 10 years ago, there was definitely less homeless people, we've seen a big rise in that time, particularly over the last four or five years in my opinion.

"We're full pretty much every night, and unfortunately that means we have to turn people away at times, which is so hard to do, especially when it's during the winter time and it's so cold and wet outside.

"We had to turn away three people last night, four away the night before that, and it really is the worst feeling in the world.

The Leader:

Holy Trinity in Rhostyllen

"If it wasn't for places like this, there would be people dying in the streets. I really do believe that this shelter is a life-saver for some people.

"This place isn't a cure for homelessness, we do what we say though, we get people off the streets, we give them food, drink, a bed, comfort, and we will continue to do that."

A national rough sleeper monitoring exercise carried out by local authorities across Wales estimated the number of people thought to be sleeping rough within each area over a two-week period between October 15 and 28, 2018.

The report estimated Wrexham had the second highest amount in Wales behind Cardiff, with 57 across the town, an increase of nearly 25 per cent on the 2017 figure, which stood at 44 rough sleepers.

The report also states that a further one-night count was carried out between the hours of 10pm on Thursday, November 8 and 5am on Friday, November 9, 2018, with the figures of that showing only 24 rough sleepers were observed on the night, which indicates a near 50 per cent decrease in rough sleepers for the town from 2017.

However, it is not just the council and homeless charities who have committed to helping those on the streets of Wrexham, but the Church in Wales as well.

Rev Sam Erlandson, vicar for Holy Trinity in Rhostyllen and All Saints on Poyser Street, has outlined just how the church has helped those in need.

"When I became the vicar of these parishes in Wrexham, there was a call to help those less fortunate in our community, and so we began a project to help feed the roofless in Wrexham.

"Both churches supply a joint team where we, several times a year, go out on a Saturday and Sunday night, and we feed all the homeless in the town, giving them sandwiches and snacks, as well as a hot drink too.

"However, the biggest thing we've done is at All Saints, where there is a rather large church hall, we realised that actually it would make for a suitable venue for people to stay overnight, who would otherwise not have anywhere to go.

"We made sure that we had a hot meal and 12 beds for roofless people in the town to come to, and that was one night every week."

Rev Erlandson went on to say he believes the Wrexham public need to take more action to help those on the streets and cannot lay all the responsibility on the council.

"I'm from Ruabon and I've lived in Wrexham for most of my life, and I must say that homelessness has become so much more visible in Wrexham in recent years.

"I know the council are doing absolutely everything they can though, and have pushed themselves to the limit to help these people.

"What we need now is for people to step up and offer a solution. We can't simply just sit down and nag our councillors to do something for us because they are at their limit really in terms of resources they have.

"We need to live in a pro-active society, we can't just expect local councils and national governments to solve all of our problems for us anymore.

"We're all adults that live in the same community, each individual, whether they're Christian or not, really needs to start asking the question, 'what am I doing for my community? What am I doing to help the people where I live?'."

Back in January, a council project to provide homeless shelters in the form of converted shipping containers came to fruition.

The units were put in place to be used by Wrexham Council's housing options service to help people who might be homeless or need supporting into recovery.

The units are situated on Holt Road, near Tŷ Nos, although Wrexham Council made it clear the containers aren't run by Pennaf, who operate the night shelter.

The containers are being used to help people who are involved in long-term recovery - either on their way back to getting a long-term tenancy, or as they receive support for addiction or health.

Cllr David Griffiths, lead member for housing at Wrexham Council, has praised their efforts in tackling the issue of homelessness in the town, but admits there is still work to be done.

"Earlier this year, we saw a reduction of nearly 50 per cent in the number of rough sleepers in Wrexham. That was welcome news, and demonstrated the dedicated efforts of our Housing Options Team.

"Those figures have remained stable, and we have not seen any significant growth since the count was taken.

"Though - as we noted at the time - we don't want to be complacent. We don't want to see anyone having to sleep rough, and we want to do everything we can to reduce the figures even further.

"We recently started work on a number of measures to reduce the number of rough sleepers in the town centre and the wider county borough, including the arrival of new modular housing off Holt Road for short-term tenancies for rough sleepers looking to get into accommodation, and working alongside volunteers with Housing Justice Cymru to provide sleeping spaces at churches in Wrexham.

"We are also working alongside all five other North Wales authorities and all of our partners as part of a regional approach to tackling homelessness in North Wales, looking at many of the root causes and broader trends underlying homelessness and rough sleeping, which - although not limited to Wrexham alone - would certainly affect the number of rough sleepers in Wrexham."