South Wales Echo

Drug use and violence rife in hostels for homeless – claim

- ALEX SEABROOK Local Democracy Reporter

A HOSTEL being used to house homeless people during the coronaviru­s pandemic has been described as a “nightmare”, with claims of drug use, frequent visits by police and people armed with baseball bats and knives.

Across the UK, hundreds of homeless people were put up in hotels at the start of the coronaviru­s lockdown. In Cardiff, the city council booked a hostel and a hotel to house up to 140 homeless people and help them socially distance.

But one homless person who has been staying in the YHA Cardiff Central hostel on East Tyndall Street has made a number of serious allegation­s about what it has been like to live there. Meanwhile people living near the OYO hotel in Riverside have complained about the behaviour of some of its residents.

The man, who did not want to be named, was made homeless at the start of the lockdown. Self-employed, he said the work “just dried up” at the end of March, and when his relationsh­ip broke down he was out on the streets.

After spending a week in other accommodat­ion, he was sent to the YHA hostel. On his second night sleeping there, he claimed he saw paramedics move the body of a person who had passed away at the hostel. He claimed staff told him the man’s body was found two days after his death.

Cardiff council confirmed a resident at the hostel had died.

The man said: “It’s a nightmare in here. I’ve had enough. It’s not a nice place.”

He claimed drug use is excessive and that dealers sell drugs in the lobby in view of cameras and security guards. The smell of the drug Spice pervades the building, night and day as people smoke indoors.

“You can get Spice, crack, heroin, Valium, pills, whatever you want, easily,” he said.

The man claimed that armed police raid the hostel regularly and once undercover police even posed as cleaners to sting a “big drug dealer down from London” who was staying there.

“We’ve had four police vans here in the last week,” he said.

The man claimed there is also violence between people staying there, many of whom have weapons.

He said: “A lot of us are armed. I’ve got a baseball bat and a seven-inch blade. A lot of people here are tooled up for their own safety.”

The man said that despite suffering severe mental health problems and asking for counsellin­g since he arrived, no help or support has been offered to him. He claimed YHA staff are untrained in supporting the people staying there and dealing with the issues that have arisen.

“We’ve had 11 serious self-harm incidents where staff have had to phone for an ambulance. One guy stuck a knife through his hand,” he said.

Cardiff council said the supply of drugs “will never be tolerated”.

A spokeswoma­n said: “Action is taken against any person who fails to observe the agreement, up to and including eviction for persistent and serious breach of policy.”

The council said staff have called the police “on occasion” but not frequently and said in most cases the hostel’s security staff are “more than capable of defusing any incidents”.

It said it is offering “unpreceden­ted” levels of support, with more people accessing help with substance misuse, therapy, counsellin­g, housing, physical health and social work.

The spokeswoma­n said: “Not only are more clients engaging with this service than ever before, the team is also seeing an increase in retention of service users. All specialist services have reported that engagement with this client group has never been better.”

The man claimed there have been six cases of Covid-19 at the YHA. The council confirmed some people staying there have been admitted to hospital but said action is taken immediatel­y if any symptoms are shown.

The spokeswoma­n said: “Thankfully these measures have prevented a widespread outbreak in any of the homeless accommodat­ion provision across Cardiff.”

Asked if there was anything good about staying there, the man said: “It’s a decent place to live and the rooms there aren’t bad. It’s a roof over your head. You can come and go as you like, and it’s nice not to have to share a shower and to have your own bedroom. But this place is better than the OYO. It’s a lot worse there.”

The OYO hotel on Clare Street is also being used by Cardiff council to house homeless people during the pandemic.

Neighbours living near the OYO have complained of “appalling behaviour” by some hotel guests, including open drug dealing and public urination.

Riverside councillor­s Iona Gordon and Kanaya Singh said they have received daily complaints from neighbours.

Cllr Gordon said: “The council had to do it, and they’ve done it brilliantl­y. But some of the homeless people have behaved appallingl­y.

“The problem is some of the people who are living temporaril­y in Riverside have got totally chaotic lifestyles. We get reports on a daily basis. People drinking early in the morning, urinating in public. It’s just chaos.”

Cllr Gordon said: “The council has done a really good job responding quickly to the needs of homeless people during the Covid-19 pandemic, but Riverside residents have had their quality of life impacted by the behaviour of some of the residents.”

In June, a council boss revealed people staying at the OYO and YHA had become “exceptiona­lly difficult to manage” after not being able to beg and fund drug habits and “growing increasing­ly desperate”.

A council spokespers­on said: “We are aware of some anti-social behaviour in the area but it’s important to point out that not all of these have involved OYO residents. We have worked with the police to resolve any issues and also have robust procedures in place to deal with clients causing problems, including moving them to alternativ­e accommodat­ion where appropriat­e.”

The council said some people have already moved on from the hotels as well as from existing supported accommodat­ion schemes.

The spokeswoma­n aded: “The coucil is working tirelessly to ensure that everybody in the hotels has appropriat­e accommodat­ion when they do close.”

A South Wales Police spokeswoma­n said: “We encourage vulnerable people to engage with the many support agencies and outreach services that are available in Cardiff.

“We are aware of concerns within the community about drug offences and anti-social behaviour. As always, robustly tackling such issues is a priority and additional daily patrols are taking place.

“If anyone has concerns, please always contact South Wales Police on 101 for non-urgent matters or 999 in an emergency.”

 ?? ROB BROWNE ?? The YHA hostel, East Tyndall Street, Cardiff, and, inset, the OYO in Riverside
ROB BROWNE The YHA hostel, East Tyndall Street, Cardiff, and, inset, the OYO in Riverside
 ??  ?? Police speak to someone inside the YHA
Police speak to someone inside the YHA

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom