Last week’s story on a charity’s plan to dot pods around the city centre in a bod to tackle homelessness took the internet by storm. Reporter TOMOS POVEY speaks to people to find out whether they think the proposal can make a difference.

THERE is no question that the number of rough sleepers is dramatically rising across the country.

Seeing people using doorways to sleep in is a tragic sight in 21st century Britain.

And according to the latest statistics from StatsWales, this sight has increased every year since 2015.

The website estimated the number of rough sleepers from 2015- 2016 to be eight in Newport.

The figure then rose between 2016- 2017 and 2017-2018 from 17 to 22 respectively.

There is no simple explanation as to why people end up spending a life on the streets.

But what is clear is this complex issue requires urgent attention and new ideas.

Charity Amazing Grace Spaces has been at the forefront – just last week it showcased its new idea on how it believes it can tackle rough sleeping.

Homelessness pods – costing between five to six thousand pounds each – would, if introduced, offer overnight accommodation for those sleeping rough.

Stuart Johnson, who is the design and operations director for the charity, previously said: “People who are homeless are living everywhere.

“They are in parks, under bridges and in doorways.

“These are not safe places to be. We want them to go somewhere safe.

“These people are not on the streets because of their own volition. They need our help.

“[The pods] are being showcased because we want to hear what people think about them.

“The way they work is by people getting in touch with either ourselves or an agency linked to us. They can sleep safely in the pod.

“There is no set time period for when the people would have to leave the pod.

“Over time we hope to build a relationship with that person and then help them further.

“The main aim is to get them off the streets.”

The idea sparked a wide range of views from councillors, business owners and members of the public.

A spokeswoman for Newport City Council said the authority is currently holding “discussions” with the charity.

“Newport council] recognises that homelessness and rough sleeping is on the rise, not only in Newport but across the UK,” she said.

“Discussions have been held with Amazing Grace Spaces about the pod scheme, in relation to finding appropriate sites and the best way to access funding support, and those will be continuing.”

Independent councillor for Rogerstone Chris Evans said he “loved the project”.

“With the political will and leadership we could actually eradicate homelessness in Newport and these pods could be part of the solution. We need vision, passion and determination.

“I would urge the current administration to call a summit of all the agencies, charities and support groups and agree a plan.

“The days of brushing things under the carpet have gone.”

Mohammad Khan, who works in a city centre restaurant, believes the pods would provide rough sleepers with additional help to allow them to re-build their lives.

He said: “I read the Argus piece and the charity said they want to help the homeless people.

“They need help because they should not be sleeping in doorways. It is sad. I think it is great to see an organisation trying to do something to improve people’s lives,” he said.

“The pods would be great for the city centre.”

Mr Khan’s sister, Jasmine, added: “We would all like to see the pods in the city centre.

“They will help people.”

The charity announced last week that it hopes to have pods placed across the city centre – subject to funding – as soon as possible. And in the longer term it wants the plan rolled out Wales-wide.

There are people who have voiced concerns about the pods, however.

The chairwoman of Newport Market, Annette Farmer, said: “I think it is a great idea.

“They should not be putting them in the middle of High Street, opposite businesses. They should do what America does and have designated areas. I am sure there will be lots of people willing to offer to help.”

Former Conservative leader of Newport City Council Councillor Matthew Evans said he had received many concerns regarding the pods.

“I know Stuart and the team are passionate and dedicated in trying to solve homelessness issues,” he said.

“I’m sure they realise this is only a short-term solution and it would not solve it in the long term.

“It is worth a go but having said that a number of concerns have been raised with me. The largest issue raised is where they will be placed.

“You need to think logically where to place them.”

The owner of Baneswell Social Club, Nick Portman, thinks having pods in the city centre would “cause more problems”.

He said: “I don’t think they should be in the city centre.

“Outside the city centre then yes I would be in favour of that.

“But inside would cause more problems to businesses. Some people may not want to come to the centre if these pods are here.

“If the pods are here they will have an impact on businesses.”

Argus reader Janet May, who lives in Pill, added: “I do not think the pods will sort homelessness out.

“We need to stop people becoming homeless. The pods will not solve that problem.”

Aside from this proposal, efforts have already been launched to curb homelessness in the city centre.

Two months ago, the Argus reported that Newport Now the Business Improvement district, had teamed up with charities The Wallich and Eden Gate to launch the Street SupPORT scheme.

The innovative project involves contactless donation points set up at the windows of a number of businesses across the city – with tapping a contactless card providing a £3 donation to the scheme.

Contactless donation windows can be found at HPJV Solicitors in Baneswell Road, Specsavers at Friars Walk and Livertons Opticians in Charles Street.

Donations can also be made by texting PORT24 £3 to 70070.

Whatever your view is on the pod proposal, what can be agreed is that something radical is required to help curb the rise in homelessness.