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Charity still searching for base to house ex-offenders

By Llanelli Star  |  Posted: November 07, 2012

By Robert Dalling

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A CHARITY working to bring an ex-offenders' home to Llanelli has been branded "the kiss of death" after calling for worried residents to trust its future plans.

Caer Las executive director Jim Bird-Waddington has spoken out over the organisation's intentions after fierce protests over two separate proposed locations in the town.

Mr Bird-Waddington told the BBC he totally understood the "anxiety and fear" surrounding the project.

He said: "We want to get on with people. We don't expect them to accept 100 per cent until we prove to them.

"We've got nothing to gain out of this — we don't make a profit out of this project.

"We are doing this because we believe in what we do. We want to do something that makes a resounding difference in challenging times."

Last year, Caer Las's plans to convert the vacant St Elli care home into a house for prison leavers sparked furious protests in Queen Victoria Road.

Opposition

More recently, its hopes of taking over the former Moose Hall in Old Castle Road were met with equally strong opposition.

Neither scheme went ahead.

Now charity bosses have said it is contracted to provide a home in the area after winning a contract from Carmarthenshire Council to provide a home — and that the authority wants it in a central location for people to access services.

But secretary of the Queen Victoria Road residents' association Catriona Waldron said that the facility should be moved to the outskirts of town.

She said: "Rumours will again be rife in Llanelli about properties that Caer Las may be showing an interest in. This is because they really are the kiss of death — apart from the fear, police call-outs, antisocial behaviour and substance misuse, there is a high risk of re-offending.

"The bottom line is that having this next door destroys the value and availability of homes, and that is grossly unfair.

"There needs to be a widespread public discussion about where the people of Llanelli would want to locate such a facility, and that is likely to be a detached property on the outskirts of town."

Mr Bird-Waddington said the charity had already been running three or four other properties in the town over the past decade and that the latest project was about providing a centre for change, offering medical intuition, training, pre-employment work. He added that the types of offenders were for "low level" crime such as theft and "absolutely not high-risk individuals".

"These are people who have been in prison on short-term sentences and committed the more common types of crimes like theft," he said.

"These are not dangerous people. The client will have a history of offending and at risk to re-offend.

"There's a tsunami of people leaving prison. You probably need across Wales hundreds of projects like this to serve people out of prison and at risk of re-offending. This is a small project trying to do something for a small number of people."

Mr Bird-Waddington added that the project would take about 18 months to set up, adding the charity wants to find a new location quickly.

"At the moment, I've no idea where it's going to go because we haven't found a suitable alternative," he added.

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