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Looking at the street, as well as the sky
by Lucy Furber
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As vast towers carve out their spot in Manchester’s skyline, forcing our heads to stretch up and admire in awe, it becomes easier to stop looking down, to face the harsh reality staring up from the pavement. With Land Aid Day next month serving as a timely reminder for the challenges we face on homelessness across the country, we take a look at the efforts to end rough sleeping in Greater Manchester.
Since 2010 the regions’ homeless population has risen by 155%, with 500 people habitually sleeping rough in the region every night, as well as over 4,000 more living in temporary accommodation-‘the hidden homelessness’.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has been one of the most vocal personalities on the issue since his campaign pledge to end homelessness in the region by 2020. Cynics may have viewed this as political posturing, but so far, the Mayor has stood his ground.
As the weather turns to a bitter Northern winter, Burnham has been leading efforts to ensure there is a bed available for each one of Greater Manchester’s homeless, on every single night right through until March 2019. Starting in October, this ambitious partnership brings together 10 local authorities, a host of businesses and voluntary organisations working alongside the public in a coordinated effort. Even Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany has pledged to donate the proceeds from his testimonial to the fund. The initiative provides a point of contact for essential health and other public services to connect with rough sleepers, providing them with a pathway out of homelessness.
However as vital as this work is in giving people a safe place to sleep this winter, it is more important to ensure that there is sufficient national funding to provide vital early intervention, supporting people before they fall into homelessness.
At the same time, the drive to deliver 300,000 homes annually should remain high on the governments agenda, with an emphasis on ensuring that enough of these take the form of social housing and affordable rent.
Only then, when enough affordable accommodation can be delivered alongside properly funded support services, will we have begun to address the structural reasons behind homelessness. However, in Greater Manchester, and across the north more widely it remains to be seen how recent housing projections data could affect this ambition. If more and more local authorities reduce their targets, will the instability and unaffordability of renting undermine the regions’ drive to end homelessness?