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Oliver Townsend appointed Chair of Trustees at The Wallich

LEADING Welsh homelessness and rough sleeping charity, The Wallich, has appointed Platfform’s Oliver Townsend as the new Chair of its Board of Trustees.

Mr Townsend replaces Interim Chair Cinzia Porcedda and predecessor Will Henson, who stepped down following almost three years as Board Chair. Oliver has supported The Wallich since 2014, officially joining its Board in 2021 and becoming Chair in April 2024.

Mr Townsend currently works for mental health and social change charity, Platfform, as its Head of Connections and Change. He previously worked at Cymorth Cymru, representing member organisations including The Wallich, Welsh Government and beyond to improve and develop homelessness policies in Wales.

With a professional background in marketing, policy and communications and personal experiences of powerlessness in big NHS settings, he brings invaluable skills and experiences to The Wallich.

The Wallich’s Board of Trustees is made up of eight members bringing a variety of expertise, including representatives from KPMG, Cardiff University, Valleys to Coast housing and Darwin Gray.

The Wallich delivers more than 100 services, supporting more than 7,000 across Wales each year. The charity works with Welsh Government, local councils, health services and other agencies to deliver effective homelessness services.

New Chair of the Board, Mr Townsend, said: “The Wallich makes a huge difference. They speak with a powerful voice based on experience and expertise, and they work hard to put the people they support first. I can’t wait for the next part of The Wallich’s story.

“I have been a supporter of this brilliant charity since 2014. When I first arrived in the homelessness sector, I visited some of their local services in Cardiff for a whole day. For someone who was new to housing, I was moved by their progressive vision for tackling homelessness, their approach to compassionate harm reduction around substance use and their dedication to working with people that other services might turn away.”

A shocking number of people in Wales experience homelessness or vulnerable housing. Official Welsh Government figures show 11,721 people were staying in temporary accommodation on 29 February 2024. 121 people were estimated to be sleeping rough on the same date throughout Wales. The Wallich believes this number to be higher.

As the largest Welsh homelessness and rough sleeping charity, The Wallich operates under three core objectives: getting people off the streets; keeping people off the streets; and creating opportunities for people. It aims to provide services for people at every stage of experiencing homelessness.

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Mr Townsend continued: “The Wallich’s legacy is one it should be proud of. From setting up Wales’ first Housing First service on Anglesey to being one of the first providers to adopt trauma informed working and a dedicated Psychologically Informed Environments strategy.

“The charity has been a driver to linking homelessness and health policies and have long delivered a peer-led co-production programme, which redesigns services with input from the people who have used them.

“They’re also proud that 32.2% of its workforce have lived experience of homelessness, vulnerable housing, mental health or the criminal justice system. The Wallich always aims to try new things and push to do better for the people we support.”

The Wallich, Interim CEO, Sian Aldridge, said: “We’re certain Oliver will continue to be part of the fabric of The Wallich. Under his leadership of our Board of Trustees, we know they will steer us to drive evidence-led innovation, and we welcome challenge to our senior team when we need it.

“As funding opportunities get tougher and demand gets higher, we’re proud to have people like Oliver on our Board who understand the landscape that the homelessness sector is facing and support us to come up with the solutions.”