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Homeless people and those in need of affordable housing will benefit from the work of a Christian charity which launched its Welsh branch today.
Housing Justice Cymru will work with churches and housing associations to identify buildings and land which could be transformed into homes or shelters for those in need.
It will be managed by a steering group chaired by the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon,John Davies.
Speaking at the launch at the Welsh Government’s Pierhead building in Cardiff Bay, Bishop John said Housing Justice Cymru would be a conduit, linking churches with housing associations as well as keeping pressure on politicians to prioritise homelessness.
He said, “There are 90,000 people on waiting lists for social housing in Wales, and last year almost 7,000 households were accepted as homeless by local authorities. The room today, gives a very clear picture of what is vital in addressing homelessness and housing in Wales – ‘Partnership working’ between organisations at the heart of our communities in Wales. There is a clear need for a Christian organisation like Housing Justice Cymru, which will have the knowledge and expertise to work with both churches and the housing sector in Wales. It will encourage partnership working and will encourage and support churches to see housing as part of our ministry.
“Decent affordable housing is key to the relief of poverty and I am confident that Housing Justice Cymru will be a friend and support to every church and organisation represented here today and will seek to encourage closer working in the future.”
Bishop John said many churches were increasing involved in projects to tackle homelessness in response to the refugee crisis, people trafficking and the impact of welfare reform.
“This work makes a huge difference locally,” he said, “but it is often unknown and unconnected at a national level. This will be a key role for Housing Justice Cymru, to work across all denominations in Wales to act as a conduit that helps support and connect this work and encourage greater working with the housing sector. I also hope that Housing Justice Cymru will be a strong voice for the church to those in government and be a critical friend that never allows housing to fall down the list of political priorities.”
The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, also spoke at the launch. He highlighted housing projects the Church was already involved in such as the Caerphilly Churches Night Shelter Project where 11 churches and chapels of different denominations worked together with Caerphilly Council to support rough sleepers. He also mentioned a specific Church in Wales project to deliver 12 affordable units in Abercanaid, near Merthyr Tydfil. Others in Maindee, Newport, Birchgrove in Swansea, and Grangetown in Cardiff were being finalised.
Dr Morgan said, “The underlying philosophy is simple. Everyone ought to have access to a decent home in a nation said to be the fifth largest economy in the world. Yet so many in the UK are homeless, either rough sleeping or lodging in temporary accommodation and no matter what part of Wales or the UK you visit, the problem is obvious.
“Housing is of course a devolved matter in Wales and the need for suitable housing for its citizens has to be at the heart of any government’s priorities.”
In her address, Anne Hinchey, chief executive of Wales & West Housing, spoke of how many housing associations within the UK had their roots within the church. Mrs Hinchey said, “Some people may not be aware that many housing associations in the UK have their roots in Christian values and were set up as a Christian response to poverty and the effects of poor housing. So we share a common heritage and it is a fair assumption that everyone in this room today is driven by a desire to make life better for people in need.”
Housing Justice Cymru Director, Sharon Lee said, “It was exciting to bring together a wide range of stakeholders from the church and the housing and homelessness sector to officially launch Housing Justice Cymru.
“From today, the hard work begins to see the relationships that Housing Justice has made over the last couple of years take on a new life, as we stand together to address homelessness and housing need in Wales.”