Homeless families have spoken of the stress they’ve endured since being told they will lose their temporary accommodation to make way for tourists in Rhyl.
Yesterday the Local Democracy Service reported that Denbighshire Council was moving homeless people out of hotels on the seafront in Rhyl so as not to put off tourists from coming to the town.
Cllr Bobby Feeley speaking on behalf of the council said this was to protect the council’s investment in regenerating the town’s seafront but the council has been accused of “social cleansing”.
Llyr Gruffydd, North Wales AM, said: “The reasoning by Denbighshire Council’s cabinet member for evicting the homeless from the Westminster Hotel was explicit – she said it was to protect the investment the council had made in tourism and economic regeneration in the surrounding area from the ‘potential negative impact’ of the homeless.
“These homeless families are already at rock bottom for various reasons. They are being shipped out to other temporary accommodation purely to try to improve Rhyl’s image.
“To me that smacks of social cleansing, of trying to brush a very serious problem under someone else’s carpet. But how would Denbighshire feel if other counties did this to them?”
Carol Arnett, 54, the joint owner of the Westminster Hotel in the town started to take in residents on behalf of the council’s homeless service last year.
But in January they were told that homeless residents would have to leave the hotel with the regeneration of the town and the hotel’s seafront position being given as a reason. She said: “There is a perception that they are from off the streets. and that is not the case they are decent people and some of them are working. They ‘ve lost their homes and the whole point is to prevent homelessness. They said it’s because of regeneration.
“We asked if they could use us next winter but they’ve said never again.
“So during the winter we will be closed for five months meaning 15 permanent staff will be laid off.”
Today at the hotel there was anger over the comments and the actions from the council.
Zoe Stuart, 37, from Rhyl is a mother of three and has been staying at the hotel since last summer when she was evicted by her private landlord.
She said: “The hotel is absolutely amazing, they could not have been more supportive. They made me feel like I wasn’t in it on my own.
“My support worker came out to see me and she told me the reason we were moving was because Carol was selling the place. Nobody actually knew what was going on, I asked her where we were going but nobody has any answers.”
Mrs Stuart was angered by the comments on the impact on the town’s regeneration.
She added: “I was absolutely disgusted by how she could have such a negative approach towards homeless people. She has never been out to see us, she has never met us. There was just no feeling there. I am a person and so are my children, not numbers on a piece of paper. There was no compassion, we were just being swept under the carpet.
“I was here for the summer last year and we did have tourists and they had no problem, nobody knows why we’re as fas as they are concerned we are on holiday as well. It was fine last year.”
Cherry Butler, 71, from Bodelwyddan, was also upset at the idea of being moved from what she says is the hotel now unless it was into permanent accommodation.
“I am happy and settled here it’s very upsetting to have to move from here,” she said.
A spokesman for Denbighshire County Council said: “We have taken this decision to ensure we find the most suitable long-term accommodation for families and individuals who have unfortunately found themselves homeless.
“Hotels are occasionally used by the council to provide short-term emergency accommodation for those in need, but they are not seen as a long term solution and our aim is to re-house families and individuals in accommodation that meets their needs in the long term, as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“We are reassuring families and individuals they will not be moved until suitable accommodation is found, preferably in their own community wherever possible and if it’s appropriate.
“We have a committed and dedicated team who work tirelessly to meet the emergency accommodation needs of families and we will continue to work closely with those affected.”
By Shane Brennan – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).