Well-meaning people could be putting the homeless at risk by donating tents, a Cardiff shelter chief has said.
Richard Edwards, chief executive of the Huggard Centre in Butetown, issued the warning as tents continue to be erected on the city’s busiest shopping streets.
He said those with tents were less likely to accept professional help and more vulnerable to exploitation.
Cardiff council said it was aware of more tents and would be meeting with other agencies to “find a way forward”.
“We find it very sad that nobody can seem to do anything for them and they have come to this,” one woman shopping on Queen Street said.
“I’m glad they are under cover and nobody has moved them on, but it is just awful to see people actually living like this.”
A man on his way to work, Faustace, said he was disgusted people were living in tents in the city centre.
He said: “I’m from Africa. You don’t see that in Africa. It shouldn’t be happening here, it’s disgusting.”
Staff at the Huggard Centre were “very worried” about the problem, Mr Edwards said, adding it was part of a more concerning trend of rising homelessness in Cardiff.
“We understand public desire to help rough sleepers, however by giving them a tent they are risking their health and mental wellbeing,” he added.
“A person in a tent is less likely to want or accept professional help from any of the support organisations in Cardiff. It also leaves them vulnerable to exploitation, to injury and possible death.
“While we don’t agree with tents being forcibly removed from our city centre, we would ask the public to think very carefully about their actions.”
Two homeless people said some were choosing to sleep in tents rather than attend the Huggard homeless shelter.
Ross, who has post-traumatic stress disorder and has been living between night shelters and the street, said the centre on Dumballs Road was rife with drugs and thieves.
“There are groups down there on Spice and they are spiritually unwell,” he said. “They are just people that have had bad experiences with their upbringing in life.
“I fell asleep and woke with a person standing over me with my wallet in his hand. It is too dangerous there.”
He also claimed people grouped their tents together for safety due to a number of attacks.
Richard, 29, said he fell into homelessness after leaving the Army and his relationship broke down.
“It is very depressing – you wake up, you haven’t got anything, you are out in the cold and the rain and you just give up. You just don’t know what to do. There’s no hope,” he said.
Like Ross, Richard said he believed some were living in tents to avoid staying at the Huggard, adding: “There’s so much going on down there – Spice is a big problem.”
Mr Edwards said the centre had a zero-tolerance approach to drugs, and specialist support was provided for substance misuse.
“We offer a safe and welcoming environment and we take the security of clients very seriously,” he added.
A Cardiff council spokesperson said: “We are concerned that the rise in the number of tents is having a direct impact on the numbers of rough sleepers who are deciding against taking up offers of support to come off the streets to get the specialist help they need to turn their lives around.”