City centre businesses can help solve the problem of homelessness by engaging with organisations working with the homeless and helping rather than seeing it as a problem, according to volunteers in Swansea and Cardiff.

Local businessman and volunteer John Davies recently organised a litter picking day in Swansea city centre. Some 25 volunteers, around half of them homeless, joined volunteers mainly from Plaid Cymru, spent the morning picking up litter before being given hot food and drink supplied by the Smoke Haus restaurant.

“It is about showing society that homeless people remain engaged with society and are willing to help,” Davies said. “We were very grateful to the Smoke Haus for supporting us that day. It illustrates that businesses can help and engage helping solve the problem in the process rather than simply see it as an issue they want removed from their own doorstep.”

Call for better treatment of the homeless by police

The Swansea event happened in November against a backdrop of recent allegations that the police have been “heavy handed” with the homeless in Swansea. John Davies, who runs the Sunday Night Plaid Cymru Food for the Homeless, along with charities such as Shelter Cymru, have been involved in a campaign to change this and prevent the police dealing with the homeless in this manner.

Lisa Baker, Editor of News from Wales heard a similar story from homeless people in Cardiff.   On one of the coldest days of Winter so far, Lisa found herself in Cardiff and spoke to two homeless women, Sam and Rachel, struggling to keep warm under very thin blankets.

Sam, who was close to tears every time there was a cold gust of wind, explained how her tent had recently been stolen.  She had reported the tent theft but did not expect any results from the investigation, both she and Rachel felt that the police were never interested when homeless people report crimes.

While our Editor bought the two ladies, and several other nearby homeless people a cup of coffee, listening to the problems they face on a daily basis, she found it extremely hard to leave knowing they would have to stay out in the cold.  Lisa explains:

“While I was talking to Sam and Rachel, I actually moved to stand in the wind to offer some kind of windbreak for Sam, who was clearly distressed by each gust of the cold wind.  They explained that while some people were kind and bought them coffee, often they faced abuse and hostility, being spat on, assaulted and shouted at on a daily basis and few people ask their names. They thanked me for the coffee and wished me a merry Christmas but I didn’t feel kind, I felt completely helpless leaving human beings sat in that cold weather – these people matter.

Local businessmen urged to help engage Swansea homeless in events

After the success of the litter pick, Davies wants to organise similar events through the winter months and get more businesses involved. On the back of such experiences, he believes homeless people can prove they remain willing to contribute to society and some of them could get jobs on the back of it.

John is also organising a football match in January between homeless people from Swansea and a team comprising volunteers, staff from Plaid Cymru, staff from the Smoke Haus and local businesses with a similar mentality – again to raise awareness of the issue.

Mark Power, the co-owner of the Smoke Haus, agreed.

“The issue of homelessness is close to my heart and I was delighted to be able to help,” he said. “But it also goes to show that many positives are possible when local business engage with the problem rather than just ignoring it or seeing it as a negative. My view is that the entire community has a duty to help and that includes the business community too.”