“Extensive work” is underway to tackle homelessness in Manchester – this is going on across many fronts to not only help prevent people becoming homeless in the first place but also to provide urgent support to those who do.
This includes people in hostels and other temporary accommodation, people sofa surfing or staying temporarily with friends as well as people who are sleeping rough.
Nationally, there has been a reported increase of 169% in the number of rough sleepers.
Welfare changes, including the capping or freezing of Local Housing Allowance rates, have made it much harder for lower income households on benefits to access and stay in the private rented sector. Loss of private rented sector tenancies has become the number one reason why people become homeless in Manchester.
The Council has also moved to expand its Housing Solutions Team, who help people at risk of homelessness to secure accommodation, but it is currently averaging 30 new approaches for assistance a day. Other local authorities nationally have reported similar challenges.
What else is being done?
The Council is working to reduce the number of people in bed and breakfast temporary accommodation, which is costly and considered a last resort when other accommodation options are not available, by identifying alternative accommodation as well as investing in prevention.
So far this year (2018/19) the Council’s private sector rented team have helped 120 households to find private rented accommodation.
Manchester currently has 1,350 households in temporary accommodation – including around 390 outside the city due to a shortage of suitable accommodation – at a cost of more than £3m a year.
Greater Manchester Combined Authority is exploring a proposal to set up a Social Lettings Agency, covering all Greater Manchester authority areas, which would help people into affordable accommodation in the private rented sector.
The Council’s Shared Housing Scheme provides temporary accommodation for 160 residents in 14 houses across the city. A programme to refurbish every one of them is underway.
The Longford Centre, which opened in March this year, provides short term accommodation for single men, women and couples without children with low-to-medium support needs. The centre works intensively with residents to help them into work, training or education and to deal with any underlying issues – such as debt or health problems – which contributed to them becoming at risk of homelessness. The centre has already helped 87 people to secure suitable accommodation and make positive changes to their lives.
And what about for rough sleepers?
Manchester has been awarded £418,000 in government funding to deliver projects to reduce the number of rough sleepers through a bid co-produced by the Council, voluntary and public sector organisations and people with experience of rough sleeping. These include schemes to provide outreach and housing options for young people, support for former prisoners who have become homeless and other outreach and support work.
A Government funded, Greater Manchester-wide Social Impact Bond scheme – with payment by results for making a positive difference to people’s lives – has funded engagement workers who have to date helped 46 people into accommodation.
Evening drop-in services for people aged 16 to 25 years are being provided seven days a week by Centrepoint and Coffee for Craig in the Northern Quarter and for over 25s by Barnabus in the Village. The latter is hoping to expand to five nights a week.
The Big Change fund, which supports individuals who are homeless to help them off the streets, has now raised more than £200,000 with cash allocated to individuals experiencing homelessness to provide a wide range of support – from training courses to clothes for a job interview to furniture for a new flat.
Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust are commissioning two extra mental health workers to work specifically with people who are sleeping rough and are working with accommodation hostels to make sure they are providing suitable environments. Council and partner frontline staff are being given extra training in mental health.
Significant next steps
A new Homeless Strategy 2018-2023 is being co-produced by a range of public, private and voluntary sector organisations, including the Council, and will be launched on World Homelessness Day on 10 October. This will also reflect co-ordinated work which is going on at a Greater Manchester level to tackle this issue alongside the new accommodation proposals…
Deputy Council leader Councillor Sue Murphy says:
“Homelessness remains a significant challenge, and that challenge is being made all the more difficult by national welfare changes which are causing more people to lose their homes and legislative changes which are increasing demand for our support services.
“We’ve always been clear that the issue is so complex that it can only be successfully addressed by a range of organisations working closely together. Our new HomelessStrategy will have an increased emphasis on preventing people becoming homeless in the first place as well as ensuring that they spend as little time as possible homelessand never experience it again.”