A police boss is taking to the streets to show his support for Wrexham’s growing number of homeless people.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones will spend a whole day on the streets of the town to sample first hand exactly what life is like for someone without a roof over their head.
At the same time as highlighting their plight, the former police inspector aims to raise as much cash as possible for the charity, Wrexham Homeless.
Welsh Government figures recently revealed that Wrexham has the second highest rate of rough sleeping in Wales after Cardiff with numbers up nearly 60 per cent in a year.
A snapshot sample taken last November revealed North Wales’s largest town had the most with 27 people spotted bedding down outside at night.
The numbers were up 59% from the 17 people who were spotted during a similar count taken in November, 2015.
A local charity dealing with the problem says there are currently about 30 people homeless people in Wrexham.
In a bid to highlight the situation Mr Jones, a former Wrexham councillor, will be taking part in the sponsored Day on the Streets organised by AVOW – the Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham – on Saturday July 15.
The PCC said: “We are spending a day on the streets of Wrexham to raise awareness of the plight of homeless people in Wrexham and also to raise money to help them.
“Anyone anywhere can end up on the streets but we hope to make this a less traumatic experience and the funds will go towards supplying them with sleeping bags, tents food and warm clothing.”
Mr Jones will take to the streets as part of a group of between 20 and 30 people and spend 12 hours, from 8am until 8pm, going through the same laborious and precarious routine followed by many homeless people.
Peter Jones, a substance misuse volunteer co-ordinator with AVOW who is organising the day, said: “We’ve been doing similar sponsored events in the town for the past eight years and raised quite a few hundred pounds for the Wrexham Homeless charity.
“It’s usually an overnight sleep-out to simulate the hardships of spending the night outdoors but this is the first time we’ll be doing it in the daytime. That’s because we believe 8am-8pm is the most difficult period for the homeless.
“The night shelter in Holt Road where many of the homeless spend the night closes at 8am and they have to leave which means they have to find somewhere to go until it opens again at 8pm.
“If they go into public buildings or bus shelters they can be moved on and if they have a Public Space Protection Order against them and go into the town centre they can be arrested for breaching it, so sleeping is the easy bit.”
Peter added: “On July 15 we’ll split the people spending the day on the streets into small groups of about six or seven and, starting from outside the Ty Nos night shelter in Holt Road, we’ll disperse across the town, just trying to find somewhere to go and do with ourselves for the 12 hours.
“We’ll go into the Ty Croeso adult support centre in Grosvenor Road during the morning for a cup of tea and a slice of toast but after that we’re all going to be very much on our own.
“We’ll try to make the whole thing as realistic as we can and all we’ll be taking with us will be a change of clothing and a sleeping bag or a blanket, which is all real homeless people usually carry with them.
“We’re delighted to be having the Police and Crime Commissioner with us and for him to be experiencing for himself exactly what being homeless in Wrexham is all about.”
Arfon Jones said: “It should be a very interesting and informative exercise and provide a real insight into the homeless problem in Wrexham.
“Lots of people see a person suffering homelessness as spending their nights on the streets but for the rest of the time they are sitting on park benches and in doorways day after day, week after week, month after month.
“They’re often asked to move on in all weathers carrying everything they own in a rucksack or carrier bag.
“On July 15 we’ll be experiencing exactly what this is like without funds and walking the streets.”
He added: “The reason I’m getting involved is that there’s a lot of correlation between substance abuse, mental health issues and homelessness.
“The symptoms of all three of these things are similar – anti-social behaviour and criminal activity – because often the only way a homeless person can survive is by shoplifting and the only way they can feed themselves is via a charitable organisation.
“If you are able to reduce the level of homelessness you can reduce harm to the individual who is homeless, reduce crime and offending and provide reassurance to the public who are fearful of homeless people.
“Everyone is welcome to come and join us on July 15 and together we can hopefully make this a massive success.
“I have set up a sponsorship page on Just Giving and my initial target figure is £500, although I’m hoping to raise quite a bit more.”
Tanya Jones, manager of the Wrexham-based Rough Sleeper Intervention Programme run by the charity Wallich and recently won the PCC’s People Award in his annual community awards, said Mr Jones’s involvement in Day on the Streets was very welcome.
“It’s incredibly important for him to be taking part and helping to raise the profile of homeless people in Wrexham, she said.
“Being homeless is not just about sleeping out overnight but also the long daytime hours when people have nothing in their pockets and nowhere to go and are constantly being moved on.
“Our clients have to deal with this for months and months on end. It can be soul-destroying and very lonely. It’s important that the PCC sees this at first-hand.
“The number of homeless people in Wrexham is escalating and it doesn’t look like there will be any decrease in the figures. We estimate there are currently about 30 people either accessing the local night shelter or sleeping rough.”
For those wishing to help sponsor forms are available from Ty Croeso at 31a Grosvenor Road, Wrexham, LL11 1BT, and Mr Jones’s sponsorship page is at: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/arfon-jones