As CEO of , Wales’s leading charity for homeless people, Frances Beecher is not easily shocked. But even she was dismayed when she found out that one local authority’s emergency support line for young homeless people was being redirected to the maintenance department. “Someone who is adept at boiler crises or floods can’t necessarily address the danger of putting a young person in a bed and breakfast, which is meant to be a place of last resort,” she says.
Government guidance at the time said that local authorities should avoid placing anyone under 18 in B&Bs. But Beecher was concerned about the number of young people she saw “slipping through the net, usually over the weekend in an emergency situation”.
Last autumn, Llamau joined together with a number of other Welsh homelessness charities to form the partnership. Together, they started a campaign to change the law and protect vulnerable young people. “We talked to them about their experiences in B&Bs and some were quite horrific. Some had been sexually assaulted and one girl had been raped,” she says. “Often these young people had nowhere to stay between 9am and 6pm, so were on the streets with no money or food. And then it stopped them asking for help, because when they had asked, they had been put in these B&Bs.”
The Welsh actor threw his support behind the campaign and started a petition, which was signed by more than 100,000 people. On the petition, Sheen highlighted the plight of these young people: “Being a teenager is a difficult and confusing time but being a teenager and homeless leaves you dangerously vulnerable,” he said. “We should do everything we can to provide a safe shelter for them.” In February, the Welsh government strengthened its policy on keeping young homeless people out of B&Bs in response to the campaign.
“Now the guidance in is the strongest in the UK,” says Beecher, who will continue working on the issue. “We had a commitment to try and enshrine that in legislation and will be taking it forward to the upcoming senate election.”