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Homeless Boy Fears Santa Will Not Find Him at Christmas

“How is Santa going to find me if we are homeless?”

The words of eight-year-old Marcel after he and his widowed mother were moved into a hotel room by Cardiff council following eviction from a rented flat.

Marcel, who has learning difficulties, does not understand why he no longer has his own bedroom.

The Welsh government said the numbers living in temporary accommodation amounted to a “health crisis”.

His mum Sarah described how Marcel had asked her the Santa question.

“No kid should ever say that,” she said. “He shouldn’t have to worry about whether he’s going to get presents or not.”

Sarah and Marcel are waiting for the council to find them somewhere permanent to live, after they were evicted when their landlord sold up.


“It gets a little bit lonely with no visitors. And pets are not allowed,” Marcel said. 

Cardiff council said despite a “good supply” of temporary accommodation for 1,700 households, it was facing “unprecedented demand” which had led it to house 202 further households in five hotels across the city.

It said it was prioritising moves for those in hotels wherever possible.

But Sarah and Marcel are far from alone.

Tracy, Olly, Angel and Bella

Tracy, from Rhyl, Denbighshire, is facing her second Christmas living in one hotel room with her teenage son and two daughters, aged 10 and seven.

“I can’t thank the hotel enough… but even so, it’s not a home,” she said.

Bella next to a Christmas tree

The family used to rent a four-bedroom house, but were evicted when their landlord sold up.

When they couldn’t find an affordable place to rent, Denbighshire council placed them in the hotel.

Tracy said the long wait for somewhere to call home was affecting the children’s welfare and making her own physical and mental health issues worse.

She said she once questioned whether things would be better for her children if she was not around. 

“You just feel as if, if you’re not there, then [the children] can go to a home, you can find a home for them to be happy. It’s just hard.” 

Denbighshire council said demand for social housing exceeded supply, and temporary accommodation was used “for far longer” than it would like.

It said it was working with Tracy to find a permanent solution, but “at present we do not have a confirmed timescale”.

Sian, Isabella and Sienna

Sian, from Cardiff, was also issued with an eviction notice after her landlord decided to sell up.

She said: “My kids are asking me ‘are we going to have a roof over our head?’

“It feels like I’m letting my kids down – my son’s struggling in school, the two little ones don’t understand.  I feel like it’s killing me.” 

Sian (right) with her children, including 13-year-old Sienna on the left

Sian’s daughter, Sienna, 13, said she was “stressed and a bit sad”.

“I don’t want to see my mum stressed… I want to be under a roof before Christmas, and I want all of us to be happy.”

Shortly before they were evicted, Cardiff council found the family a temporary flat to live in until the end of January and said they would be moving to another temporary home until a permanent solution was found.

They were some of the 11,200 people – including 3,409 children – in temporary accommodation in September 2023 in Wales.

Evictions up, spending up

New research by the BBC Wales Investigates programme suggests just over 139,000 people, including at least 34,000 children, were waiting for social housing in Wales, based on snapshot data in October 2023 from all 22 councils.

Spending on temporary accommodation in Wales has risen from £5.6m in 2018, to £42.9m in 2022 – a seven-fold increase – based on data from 20 out of 22 councils. 

In England, councils’ use of temporary accommodation is now at its highest since records began – costing at least £1.74bn in 2022-23, according to the Local Government Association.

Across Wales and England, so called no-fault evictions are at a seven-year high, which housing charity Shelter said was a “significant factor” in rising homelessness.

Houses in Wales

“When you don’t have the homes to move people into, you find yourself in a situation where people are staying far too long in temporary and emergency accommodation,” said Andrea Lewis of the Welsh Local Government Association.

She said there was a “housing crisis” with “very little room” to do anything else.

“It’s absolutely not ideal and I get that it’s not acceptable.”


Housing charity Shelter Cymru said placing people in unsuitable temporary accommodation for more than six weeks was unlawful, according to Welsh rules. 

“They [local authorities] are going against the order, because of a lack of suitable accommodation, and we’re seeing that in our casework,” said Emma Thompson of Shelter.

Prof Peter Mackie from Cardiff University said despite commitments to offer temporary accommodation to people who need it, the cost of living increase and “very tough” housing market made it a problem “unlike what we have experienced before”.

“I think if we treated this with the urgency that we treated Covid-19, and that’s the most recent example in history where we’ve really seen it as a public health emergency, we’d find other ways,” he said.

“We need to build more, we need to build faster.”

He said Wales was “hampered” by policy and funding decisions made by the UK government, which affected the Welsh government’s budget.

‘Money worth less than before’

Welsh government Housing Minister Julie James said temporary accommodation waits were “a health crisis”.

“My heart absolutely goes out to anyone who’s in that circumstance, but the alternative to that right now is that we would have many more people rough sleeping and that’s not something I want to contemplate,” she said.

“We are going as fast as we absolutely can to get both the transitional accommodation programme up and running… and then of course we’ve got our targets to build our 20,000 decent, social homes for rent.

“But if you look at… what the government’s money can do, prior to the pandemic, we could get somewhere between five and seven houses for £1m.

“Now, we get four if we’re lucky. So although we’ve put more money into the system, it’s not buying the same amount back out of it as we were getting before the pandemic.”

The UK government said the Welsh government was receiving the largest funding settlement in the history of devolution, and it was committed to ensuring that families can move out of temporary accommodation into stable accommodation.

Source : BBC