A Wrexham woman who helps keep rough sleepers off the streets has won an award for her work which has seen hundreds of homeless people put a roof over their heads.
Tanya Jones, 39, was the proud winner of the People’s Award at North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones’ community awards, held at the Kinmel Manor Hotel in Abergele.
She is the manager of the Rough Sleepers Intervention Team (RSIT) in Wrexham, an organisation run by Cardiff-based homeless charity The Wallich.
Tanya and her team seek out homeless people, give them basic humanitarian aid and get them into support services.
She was nominated for her award by members of the community including Inspector Paul Wycherley of North Wales Police who said the RSIT has been ‘an enormous benefit’ to the homeless community of Wrexham.
“Tanya has often gone above and beyond in carrying out her role in many different ways,” said Insp Wycherley. “She works tirelessly to break down barriers between her clients and local communities.
“Tanya has a compassionate and non-judgemental way of engaging with homeless and vulnerable people, and has successfully helped to rehabilitate hundreds of people over the many years she has worked in this field. She does her best to help the police and partners in her support of service users.”
Insp Wycherley said the RSIT was almost like having an extra emergency service at times, adding: “There is no doubt about the community spirit and determination of Tanya and the team. They are unsung champions who deserve recognition for the valuable role they perform each day without hesitation.”
Rough sleeping in Wrexham is a problem. Welsh Government data has suggested the number of homeless people in the town doubled to 61 from 2015 to last year.
Tanya, who was born and bred in Wrexham, says the issue in the town is ‘on a par’ with Welsh cities like Cardiff and Swansea which is why the role of the RSIT, set up last October, is so important.
Tanya is the team’s only full-time employee, with support worker Sarah Daniels assisting for four hours a day. Further support comes from two local authority social workers and a representative of the Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham, all forming what Tanya calls ‘a fantastic team’.
The service provides aid for the homeless, giving them food and hot drinks as well as signposting and referring them to services and appropriate accommodation. Tanya’s team also help gather useful data about the number of rough sleepers in the town.
“There was obviously a high demand to engage with rough sleepers in Wrexham and offer them a support package where they could access accommodation,” said Tanya, who graduated from the University of Chester in 2015 with a Criminology degree.
“We deal with the most chaotic individuals in society – not all of them are but some are.
“It all means I’m a very busy lady but I love my job. I get on well with the clients. It’s very rare I’ll have any issues. All our clients know we’re here to support them and we will continue to, no matter what.
“They know they can always come back to us.”
Tanya, who began working for The Wallich in 2014, took members of her team along to Thursday’s awards ceremony as a thank-you for the support they have given her since she began managing the RSIT in October.
Commissioner Jones, a former police inspector, felt it was important to recognise the efforts of often unsung heroes in the community.
He said: “One thing all our winners have in common is that they make North Wales a better and safer place to live and work.
“There are many selfless people who do a lot of good in the community by helping North Wales Police and these silent workers go way beyond anybody else to make a contribution and ensure their communities are safe.
“In the overwhelming number of cases, this a personal commitment made without expectation of any kind of reward or recognition.
“This awards ceremony is an opportunity to recognise the unstinting efforts these unsung heroes and heroines and to encourage others to follow their good example.”