THE Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham has thrown down the gauntlet to the leaders of the main political parties – challenging them to take immediate steps to tackle homelessness and save lives this winter.
Last year, an estimated 726 homeless people died in England and Wales, many of whom will have slept rough. This represents a 22% increase on the figure for 2017. The average age of those who died was 45 for men and 43 for women.
In a letter to party leaders, the Burnham outlined several actions he claims could make a real difference in tackling this “humanitarian crisis”. These include:
- End the freeze on the Local Housing Allowance with immediate effect once the new Prime Minister takes office, to ensure it keeps pace with the increase in local rents
- End no-fault evictions and announce this in the first Queen’s Speech
- Abolish the no recourse to public funds policy
- Provide emergency funding to operate Greater Manchester’s A Bed Every Night scheme across all of England this winter and into 2020
“More than 700 homeless people died last year but this human tragedy has not had the attention it deserves in the General Election campaign,” the Mayor said.
“In this day and age British people should not be dying on our streets for want of a roof over their heads. So, I have written to party leaders about immediate steps a new Prime Minister and government should take to save lives this winter.
“Thousands are volunteering their time to help homeless people and before casting their votes people need to know that the party leaders will take action to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.
“Here in Greater Manchester we have made great progress in reducing the numbers of people sleeping rough on our streets but much more needs to be done at national level.
“Homelessness shames our society and our duty to care for all citizens. We need a government that will listen to what is needed and deliver on commitments to end rough sleeping.”
National homelessness charity Shelter estimated earlier this year that rates of rough sleeping across England and Wales have increased 165% since 2010. However, Greater Manchester has managed to buck the trend with the number of people sleeping rough declining for two successive winters, following eight previous years of increases.
Greater Manchester’s A Bed Every Night scheme has helped over 2,650 people from a life on the streets into emergency accommodation since its launch 12 months ago. Nearly 950 individuals have since found a longer-term housing solution within Greater Manchester as they continue their journeys away from homelessness.
Even so, rough sleepers remain very much visible on the streets of Manchester city centre.