Rebecca first became homeless two years ago when her mother died. Struggling to cope with her mother’s loss, she shut herself away, no longer seeing friends or going to work.
“My mother used to help me pay my rent as I was working part-time,” she explains.
“When she passed away, I didn’t deal with it very well. I didn’t use drugs or anything but I stayed in my flat and just stopped doing a lot of things. I locked myself in my room and ignored everything. I ended up losing my flat because I was behind on my rent.”
Rebecca ended up sofa-surfing for several months but when this ended during the first lockdown, she looked at the Bridgend County Borough Council website and registered as homeless.
She said: “This lovely lady called me back and explained to me about temporary accommodation.
“I explained about the need to be close by to my work and she said she would call me back. Ten minutes later, she called back and asked me to get to a Wallich project by 1pm that day.
“I was so nervous, I’ve never done anything like it before – I rang the doorbell and a lady answered saying ‘Hi Rebecca, come in, come in,’.
“She asked me a few questions, there was a form to fill in and then she showed me around, taking me to my room. I stayed there four months – the two support workers there were brilliant, anything I had a problem with I could go and talk to them about it, and they would sort it out.
“And then I was really lucky as I had a phone call offering me a place in a housing association flat which I recently moved into.
“It sounds stupid but I feel like a different person now from the start of the year. The support workers don’t get enough credit, they’ll never know how much they helped me. Whenever I was feeling upset or stressed, I could go and chat with them, they were just so welcoming and comforting.
“I would advise anyone going through a similar situation to just reach out, go on the council website, there’s help out there that I didn’t know anything about. With the right people, everything falls into place. I am so, so, very lucky.”
Between March and December, around 820 people have been given temporary accommodation in Bridgend county borough.
It follows an increase of around 25 percent in the number of people coming to the local authority to request help with housing compared to the same period last year.
Samantha is another person to have been helped over the last few months. She first became homeless six years ago when her mother lost her house and since then has had periods of rough sleeping.
She registered as homeless with the council earlier this year after coming out of prison and having nowhere to go.
She said: “The council arranged some temporary accommodation where I was for several months. Then I got the phone call that I’d been found some long-term accommodation.
“I was put into the Housing First programme – my support workers have been brilliant. They helped me to get a bed and a television, I was really happy with that.
“They made sure I had everything I needed. One of my support workers rings me a couple of times a week and comes to visit.
The support is ongoing – for example, I had a water bill come in for £70 – my support worker rang the company straight away and got it put down to instalments of £11 a month. They’ve also helped me out with food vouchers.
“Getting a flat has enabled me to get on with life, I’m more settled now. I used to get quite anxious about ending up back on the streets.
“My advice to people in a similar situation is to take all the support you can get, it’s a big help.”
The Cabinet Member for Future Generations and Wellbeing, Cllr Dhanisha Patel said: “Since the Welsh Government issued guidance in June that those in temporary accommodation should be provided with a permanent home with no one returning to homelessness, Bridgend County Borough Council has taken a rapid rehousing approach.
“At a recent cabinet meeting, we also supported further measures to increase temporary accommodation units and assistance for homeless people across the borough.
“The Housing First project in the county borough is run by Goleudy, it’s designed to achieve long-term, sustainable housing outcomes for rough sleepers who face multiple disadvantages and have a range of support needs.”
Currently, about 230 people are being supported in temporary accommodation across the county borough. In June, the council submitted bids to the Welsh Government for funding for capital and revenue projects after liaising with registered social landlords.
Once delivered, the capital projects will provide up to 34 units of accommodation. These will increase social housing stock and also allow for increased temporary accommodation units. The revenue projects will enable increased support packages for those who are homeless.