Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, has said that it is “an appalling state of affairs” when someone has to choose between sleeping on the streets or prison, after a report said prisoners are reoffending to get a roof over their heads.
Of 23 men interviewed on the day of their release from Cardiff prison on one day, only 13 had a definite place to sleep that night, a report by the prison’s independent monitoring board found.
Mr Sparkes told talkRADIO’s Mike Graham: “It is appalling. I have seen the Catch 22 report that 35% of people leave without a fixed address.
“Two things are happening here – one is that homelessness is on the rise and the root causes of homelessness are not being tackled.
“We saw the government figures last week that there was a 2% reduction in the number of people rough sleeping but still a 165% increase over the last eight years.
“That is happening for a number of reasons as people are being forced into a rental market, rents going up, and benefits being frozen.
“At the same time, you have someone coming out of prison who has a whole other load of disadvantages in terms of people being willing to rent to them.
“It is just an appalling state of affairs that someone is having to make that choice. But given the choice between being in prison and sleeping on the street, you can understand why they are doing it.”
'Breaking that cycle'
Mr Sparkes suggested mentoring schemes, like already in place in Scotland, could provide support for prisoners to help them get jobs and housing.
“In Scotland, they are working with people from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave, and beyond, to make sure they do not become homeless,” he said.
“That is a very good thing from a human point of view but I would also argue that it is a good thing economically because keeping people in prison is an expensive thing to do.”
He added that there ways to reduce reoffending, even for those with “complex support needs”.
There are people with very complex support needs – maybe addiction or mental health issues – who are cycling through being between prisons, hospital or sleeping on the street,” he said.
“There are proven ways of breaking that cycle. If they are put into settled housing and given the wrap around support we need then there is good evidence that 85-90% of those people then stay in settled accommodation.”