VIOLENCE: Assault on police officer, and antisocial behaviour linked to homeless shelter in Bridgend
An assault on a police officer and antisocial behaviour are among recent issues that have been blamed on a homeless shelter in Bridgend.
Some residents say they are scared to leave their homes due to incidents of violence and anitsocial behaviour linked to Brynmenyn Hostel, Bridgend, during the coronavirus pandemic.
The hostel, located on Abergarw Road, is run by the Wallich Charity on behalf of Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC), offering temporary emergency accommodation to locals.
Huw Raine, who lives on Abergarw Road, said he is worried about his family’s safety because of the issues involving residents at the hostel.
“It’s really scary,” he said. “My son’s frightened to go to the shop, my partner is frightened to go around the back of the house and walk the dog because they hang about.
“Last night there was a major incident here. The whole road was blocked off with around 13 emergency vehicles, it was bonkers.”
South Wales Police (SWP) have confirmed a police officer was assaulted while visiting the hostel on Thursday January 28.
A spokesperson for SWP said: “Police responded to a report of a disturbance at an address in Abergarw Road, Bridgend at approximately 4.30pm on Thursday January 28.
“A number of units attended to support colleagues, one of whom sustained minor injuries.
“Two men, aged 19 and 26, were arrested and remain in custody whilst enquiries continue.”
Mr Raine said: “I’m worried and I’m not really the worrying type. It’s not like I’ve lived all my life in a sheltered little village.
“I’ve lived in the East End of London and in Butetown but I’ve never seen a density of antisocial behaviour like this anywhere.
“It’s just nuts really. If you go outside now it’s just happening everyday – groups of adults hanging about drinking, throwing rubbish about and swearing.”
Local authorities throughout the UK have been working to house homeless people during the pandemic, including BCBC.
Brynmenyn Hostel contains 17 units for homeless people, which is a service the council must provide under the Homelessness Act.
In a joint statement, BCBC and The Wallich said the hostel “plays an important role in sheltering people and families who have been made homeless, and enables them to access other services designed to help them get back on their feet and find permanent accommodation”.
They added: “While the coronavirus pandemic is in effect, the use of the building has been extended to ensure that nobody has to be homeless during the ongoing crisis.
“This remains in line with the same Welsh Government requirements which have seen hotels, B&Bs and other accommodation brought into use to support people throughout the county borough, and by necessity was implemented very quickly due to the rapid spread of coronavirus.”
In December, SWP said there had been “a handful of incidents in recent months” of antisocial behaviour on Abergarw Road, including “drug paraphernalia” being discovered near a park.
They said officers “increased their visibility in the general area”.
Mr Raine said it is “brilliant” that homeless people are being rehoused during the pandemic but he does not think BCBC or The Wallich have “got a handle” on the issues occurring on Abergarw Road.
“It’s out of control to be fair. I feel sorry for the staff and I feel sorry for the other residents because they’ve got to put up with a small minority who are just doing what they want effectively.”
He said he first noticed issues of antisocial behaviour linked to the hostel in Spring 2020 but despite residents reporting the problems, they have had “no reassurance” from the Wallich or BCBC.
“They all think it’s all hunky dory and they’re following all protocols.
“Whenever you talk to them they just say, ‘Oh yeah, it’s being dealt with’ but there’s been no contact at all from them with the community.
“Nothing’s in place to sort it out. Absolutely nothing.
“It has got to a point where I am pretty angry with this and I’m not going to let it lie until it’s sorted.
People are reluctant to call 101 because by the time the incident happened they’ve gone so they don’t see the point.”
BCBC Councillor Tim Thomas said he has received “dozens of calls” from people “complaining” about issues linked to Brynmenyn hostel since last summer.
The Welsh Nation Party representative said there is “inadequate outdoor space” for people living at the hostel, which is leading them to hang around nearby residential properties.
He said the incidents reported to him by locals concerned with the hostel “have been regular, numerous and quite serious,” including allegations of a resident entering someone’s garage while inebriated and someone spitting at another resident.
“It’s just unbelievable. The public is just losing confidence now and asking whether this is the right place for these people.”
Cllr Thomas said he has reported the issues to BCBC in the past and called for them to install CCTV cameras near the hostel but his requests have been turned down.
“Over the months we’re just having the same conversations, it’s just not working.”
Mr Raine said he believes the local authorities should be supporting homeless people but they are currently not doing it properly in Bridgend.
“From the start we’ve been trying to be positive about the whole thing but I’ve lost faith quite frankly in anything the Wallich are doing and I’m very disappointed with Bridgend Council.
Maybe they need to think about where they’re placing their clients because a small village isn’t probably the place to put them.
“I think there’s been massive failings on both sides.
“I wouldn’t say shut it because that’s not fair to anyone. There needs to be something done about it but I don’t know what.
“Nothing has been put in place for either the safety of the shelter’s clients or local residents.”
In their joint statement, BCBC and The Wallich said: “As well as regular police patrols in the local area, the hostel has benefitted from a number of recent safety improvements, including increased staffing levels and 24/7 support, while new exterior lighting and an upgraded CCTV system are in the process of being installed.
“We are aware that there was a recent incident inside the hostel, and that attending police made an arrest after the situation escalated.
“The incident occurred entirely within the premises, and at no time were any local residents involved or at risk.
“We are continuing to work closely alongside South Wales Police, and are offering our full support as they investigate this matter.”
Hannah Neary, Local Democracy Reporter
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