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Fears raised that Wrexham council estates could become anti-social behaviour hotspots

FEARS have been raised that council estates in Wrexham could become anti-social behaviour hotspots unless action is taken to address problem tenants.

It follows community leaders voicing concerns over homeless people being placed into social housing without support to overcome addiction and mental health issues.

A recent report by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales highlighted the problems Wrexham Council staff have encountered in contacting those in need of housing assistance since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

With face-to-face contact not permitted, officers said they had struggled to keep in touch with individuals with no access to a phone, or who live in an area with poor signal.

Councillors told a meeting held yesterday (Wednesday, October 20) it had led to anti-social behaviour issues in areas with large amounts of social housing.

Cllr Paul Blackwell, who represents Plas Madoc, said it was making life difficult for other residents.

He said: “None of us want to see homeless people on the streets of any civilised society and there shouldn’t be any homeless people at all.

“But a lot of our homeless population have various issues, including mental health, drug addiction, alcohol addiction or they may have traumas with childhood.

“They’re being housed on our housing estates, such as Plas Madoc, and in many cases they’re not tenant-ready at all.

“Current residents are having to put up with new people coming in, who are causing anti-social behaviour.

“These people need round the clock help support to make them tenant-ready before they come onto a residential housing estate and I don’t feel that’s happening.”

There has been a sharp rise in the number of people presenting to the council as homeless since the pandemic began last March.

Figures released in December 2020 showed a total of 505 people had sought assistance, around a fifth of whom had recently been released from prison.

During the pandemic, the Welsh Government has widened the category of people who are classed as being in need of temporary accommodation, meaning all homeless applications are classified as “priority need”.

Housing officer for Wrexham Council, Tracy Hague, told members of the homes and environment scrutiny committee: “We have some temporary accommodation that is within our communities, and we accept that sometimes they do cause us some issues.

“We have support going in there and that is getting better because we’re now coming through the pandemic.

“That was really difficult when we were at the height of the pandemic, to get people to do the support services for obvious reasons.

“The other issue that’s raised with us sometimes is where we give an allocation to an individual and that’s an offer of secure accommodation.

“Not everybody that we allocate to comes to us via the homeless route, but they do have those issues that you’ve raised.”

Officials have put a number of measures in place to tackle homelessness during the pandemic, including turning the former Grove Guest House on Chester Road into temporary homeless accommodation.

Plans to demolish the old Tŷ Nos night shelter on Holt Road were also approved earlier this year to make way for 19 apartments for homeless people, as well as a support centre.

However, Acton councillor Geoff Lowe said the steps taken to address anti-social behaviour were “not good enough”.

He said: “The problem is some of those issues that affect our communities are not so much down to illness but purely anti-social behaviour by some of these homeless people being put into properties who aren’t tenant-ready.

“I’ve got concerns that if we don’t deal with the effect then the failure will only make housing estates large areas of anti-social behaviour, which is something none of us want.

“Paul is not the only one of us who have tenants who behave badly and cause problems in the community.

“We are slow to react to it and sometimes when we react, we’re not really effectively dealing with this.

“It’s our tenants living on the estates that are forced to live with this problem and it is clearly not good enough.”

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