THE number of people sleeping rough in Greater Manchester has fallen for the first time in eight years, official figures reveal.
Government figures published yesterday show that on the night of the national rough sleeper count last November, all 10 Greater Manchester boroughs combined had 241 people sleeping outdoors, a reduction of 49 over the last 12 months.
In eight of the boroughs, numbers have either stabilised or fallen, but two had seen an increase; one of those to see a rise was Manchester itself.
“There is a greater awareness and visibility of rough sleeping in Manchester, so we are not surprised that the official figure has gone up since last year as this tallies with our own ongoing data, which shows that more people are on the streets than ever before,” said Councillor Sue Murphy, Manchester City Council’s lead on homelessness.
Nonetheless, the Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham welcomed the overall decline in rough sleeping, but conceded plenty more needs to be done to tackle the issue.
“Tackling rough sleeping in Greater Manchester remains a huge challenge – our approach can always improve but I am confident that for the first time in a long time real progress is being made. We are helping people turn their lives around and in many cases saving them,” he said.
November 2018 saw the city region-wide ‘A Bed Every Night’ campaign get underway, spearheaded by the Mayor. According to the combined authority, the scheme has so far helped 1,236 people into safe, warm and supported accommodation. It is the basis of a mayoral commitment to provide a bed for every rough sleeper in Greater Manchester who wants and needs one every night of this winter, regardless of weather or temperatures.
“These figures from Government demonstrate that in Greater Manchester the tide is turning. This winter, through A Bed Every Night, we are the only city-region in the UK working to provide beds across all our boroughs to meet demand for accommodation and support. We think that since the official count the number of people on our streets has dropped still further,” Burnham added.
“The fact that more than 200 people are still sleeping rough in our city-region in this day and age is completely unacceptable and there is still much work to do. This is a humanitarian crisis, not of our own making, and there is no easy solution.
“A Bed Every Night is the right thing to do both morally and economically. Research by Crisis shows someone sleeping rough costs the taxpayer £20,000 over the course of a year – someone being helped by our programmes costs roughly half that.
“We are leading the way on this issue in Greater Manchester – in contrast to many other cities’ and city-regions’ figures our numbers have declined over the past 12 months, the first time that has happened here since 2010. I call on Government to recognise the success of our strategy and adopt it as the nationwide approach to tackling rough sleeping.”
Salford’s figures saw 26 individuals counted compared to 49 the previous year. On the same night, roughly 40 people were inside A Bed Every Night accommodation in the borough as the scheme, which launched at the start of November, started to make an impact on the streets.
“We’ve been working hard to reduce rough sleeping in Salford, but it would not be possible without the support provided through the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the numerous local charities, churches, volunteers, partner organisations and help from the people of Greater Manchester. You are seriously all invaluable,” said Paul Dennett, Salford’s city mayor, who also serves as the combined authority’s lead on housing, planning and homelessness.
“Rough sleeping and homelessness is symptomatic of a failing system; shocking Government cuts have decimated local authority services. Welfare reform, especially the roll-out of Universal Credit, the bedroom tax, benefits being frozen since 2015, sanctions and welfare conditionality have all contributed to the significant exacerbation of inequality and poverty across Greater Manchester.
“In addition to this the chronic under-supply of truly affordable housing (council housing) over the last two decades and lack of properties replaced that have been sold under Right to Buy has created a housing crisis, which has fuelled homelessness and rough sleeping across Britain.
“The latest national rough sleeper count figures for Greater Manchester show that we’re making some progress but there is still so much more to do to fix the broken system in 21st century Britain.”
Manchester’s rough sleepers had risen to 123 individuals. Manchester’s Councillor Murphy added: “The headcount figure is a snapshot on one night only. However, we know that the figure for rough sleeping rarely remains static and our own most recent figure in January tells us that 65 people were on the streets which shows that more people are taking up the offers of temporary accommodation and support available to them.
“This data provides us with regular, reliable and up-to-date information to enable us to plan and respond to that need accordingly.
“We know this is a challenging situation but are working tirelessly to address these complex issues which lead to people sleeping rough in the first place. We have outreach teams as well as those from partner organisations on the streets, offering accommodation, help and support, and we are striving to strengthen this support offer all the time to help people stay off the streets, rebuild their lives and reduce homelessness.”
Next month, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority is set launched what it calls a ground-breaking Housing First pilot, backed by £7.6 million of Government funding. Its aim is to provide additional support to a further 400 people over the next three years by establishing accommodation for people facing multiple needs and exclusion, including homeless people.