28/03/2014 06:52 GMT | Updated 27/05/2014 06:59 BST

Support the CEO Sleepout in Cardiff

Tonight (27th March), I'll be joining more than 70 business leaders including five chief executives from the housing association sector, namely Michelle Reid - Cynon Taf, Duncan Forbes - Bron Afon, Andrew Lycett - RCT Homes, Cathy Davies - Hafan Cymru and Chris O'Meara - Cadwyn, sleeping rough as part of the first ever CEO Sleepout in Cardiff.

Every penny from our first hand experience of living on the streets will help the homeless, stock food banks and genuinely reach out to those facing severe hardship. A wide range of projects will benefit from the event including Llamau and Cardiff Foodbank.

As Chief Executive of Community Housing Cymru (CHC), campaigning on behalf of our members and their tenants throughout Wales, I know only too well that welfare reform is placing a huge financial burden on some of the poorest in society.

Reforms have meant that people pay for 'spare' bedrooms with no alternative accommodation available, it has removed disability benefits from those in need, and imposed sanctions on those who don't find a job despite the shadow of economic downturn still looming over many of our communities.

We know that 350,000 people are affected by welfare reform in Wales, 35,000 of which are affected by the 'bedroom tax', so it is inevitable that placing these pressures on those most in need will lead to more homelessness.

When you think of homelessness, you may have an image of someone sleeping rough in a shop doorway and sadly, for many, this is still the case. However, there are lots more people who are homeless in the non-traditional sense, who spend their time sofa-surfing on a friend's or family member's settee because they can no longer afford a bed nor a home of their own anymore.

The day before the CEO Sleepout and my taste of homelessness, I'll be at the Tai 2014 Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru (CIH Cymru) Conference. I'll be launching the CHC and the Welsh Local Government Association joint research report on 'Partnership Working and Homelessness'.

The research was commissioned to specifically focus on identifying opportunities to develop partnership working in light of the new homelessness duties set out in the Housing Bill. It seeks to highlight best practice and address some of the key challenges partners face in delivering homelessness services. The report is intended to act as a toolkit for Local Authorities and Housing Associations and we hope that, by highlighting how barriers have been overcome in a variety of areas, this will increase consistency and help in meeting the needs of the growing homeless population in Wales.

Another real cause the CEO Sleepout raises money for is to stock food banks, which have become a vital way of life for many. Food bank usage has grown dramatically due to a cost of living crisis with stagnant wages, inflation and increasing fuel and food costs.

In 2011/12 a total of 16,000 people sought help from a food bank, and latest figures (2013/14) have seen an increase in usage to 67,000.

The reality is that many more people in Wales are one step closer to homelessness, and many more are living in poverty, than ever before.

We'd all like to think that we could turn to someone for help, so if you are in a position to donate to a cause which helps makes a difference to real people's lives, please donate to the CEO Sleepout.

I'd be grateful on behalf of those whose lives will be enriched by your generosity if you would sponsor me online at:

Nick Bennett

Chief Executive, Community Housing Cymru Group