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SWANSEA’S housing chief hopes to make a lasting difference to the lives of the city’s rough sleepers when a new project gets under way this year.

The housing first initiative will provide secure accommodation for 20 rough sleepers and be led by the charity The Wallich.

Cllr Andrea Lewis, cabinet member for homes and energy, said this number was chosen specifically to cater for Swansea’s “entrenched” rough sleeper community.

Speaking at a scrutiny committee meeting, she said council officers and other partner groups had established relationships with people living on the streets.

“We have got a really strong grip on the number of rough sleepers,” she said.

Once a roof is over their heads, they will be helped to find work or deal with other matters in a bid to avoid a return to the streets.

“We know it (housing first) has been tested elsewhere, and it has had success,” said Cllr Lewis. “We hope it will be the same in Swansea.”

She could not give a date for the start of the project this autumn because she said The Wallich was recruiting the necessary staff.

Cllr Lewis said the three-year project would be evaluated as it progressed, and potentially expanded at the end.

She was asked what resources Swansea Bay University Health Board would contribute, and said she would provide a written response.

Cllr Lewis said she hoped the project will reduce entrenched homelessness “significantly”, but felt there would always be a need for the likes of the charities Shelter and Crisis.

The cabinet member also said the council had brought 100 empty properties back into use in 2018-19, and that the number of void council properties was down from 241 five years ago to 196 now.

Cllr Wendy Fitzgerald asked why it was more difficult to evict council tenants who engaged in criminal activity, or committed other severe breaches, compared to rent arrears.

She also wanted to know how the council dealt with tenants who were allocated a property but then chose not to live in it.

Cllr Lewis said tenants had to live in the property allocated.

She said four tenants had been evicted for anti-social behaviour in 2018.

Getting the required evidence for anti-social behaviour and criminal activity, she said, was laborious.

“We just can’t evict because it’s implied,” she said. “We have to make sure the facts are there.”

She said a noise-monitoring app could be looked into to help people disturbed by noisy neighbours.

Cllr Lewis added that the council did “everything we can” to prevent rent arrears evictions.

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