Businesses urged to play their part in showing homelessness the red card
WHEN Michael Sheen made his impassioned plea for the Homeless World Cup to come to Wales, the Welsh actor and activist had much more than a football tournament in his mind.
He already knew the event would transform lives, by supporting hundreds of people with experience of homelessness and social exclusion to represent their country on the world stage.
However, he also had his sights set on changing people’s minds, challenging the systems that cause homelessness, and leaving a legacy that will benefit people beyond the tournament’s final whistle.
This requires not just members of the public but also businesses and organisations to help.
That’s where Cymorth Cymru, the representative body for nearly 90 providers of homelessness, housing and support services across Wales, came in.
It acts as the voice of the sector, influencing the development and implementation of policy, legislation and practice that affects its members
and the people they support.
“We want to be part of a movement that ends homelessness and creates a Wales where everyone can live safely and independently in their own homes and thrive in their communities,” explained Katie Dalton, director of Cymorth Cymru.
“Over the last eight months we’ve been working with Michael to consider how we can use the tournament as a platform for achieving this ambition.
“We’ve been listening to people with experience of homelessness about what matters to them. We’ve also been talking to people who deliver homelessness services about the barriers to secure, affordable housing and how we can overcome them.
“On July 23 we launched our Play Your Part campaign, which encourages people and organisations across Wales to play their part in ending homelessness. It transforms all of the feedback from people who use and deliver homelessness services into a series of ‘calls to action’, aimed at members of the public, business, housing providers and government.”
Cymorth Cymru have come up with some serious asks of the Welsh and UK Governments, including building more social housing, increasing funding for support services, scrapping the Vagrancy Act and reducing waiting times for Universal Credit.
“These actions could deliver lasting change on a large scale, but we also know that small, individual actions can make a huge difference to someone’s day,” said Ms Dalton.
“Throughout the campaign we’ll be encouraging members of the public to show kindness and compassion to people who are homeless and to support campaigns to end homelessness.”
The group is also targeting businesses and asking them to consider how they can show kindness and provide opportunities to people who have experienced homelessness in their communities.
Ms Dalton says lots of people and organisations want to help people experiencing homelessness but are unsure what they could or should do.
Cymorth Cymru have put together the “calls to action” they’ll be promoting to businesses during the Play Your Part campaign:
■ 1. Provide information and support to help your employees to avoid homelessness;
■ 2. oppose hostile architecture and the prosecution of homeless people in your community;
■ 3. offer your services pro bono to people who are homeless or homelessness charities;
■ 4. show solidarity to people who have been homeless and create volunteering, training, and employment opportunities;
■ 5. support local charities and their campaigns for more housing and support services.
“It’s up to each person and organisation how they choose to engage with this issue – but if we all commit to at least one action, then together we can make a real difference,” said Ms Dalton.
“We’ll be using social media throughout the tournament to encourage people to get informed, get talking and get active.
“We’ll be tweeting campaign graphics using the hashtag #PlayYourPart19 and asking people and organisations across Wales to show their support.”
Cymorth Cymru will have a presence during the Homeless World Cup, which runs from Saturday until August 3, and will distribute leaflets detailing its five “calls to action”.
At the event, on Sunday,Ms Dalton will be interviewed by Michael Sheen, along with Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of Crisis and chair of the Welsh Government’s new Homelessness Action Group.
Ms Dalton added: “Once the tournament ends, we hope that our campaign will have started conversations and inspired actions that will result in greater kindness and compassion towards people experiencing homelessness, as well as contributing to our shared aim of ending homelessness in Wales.”