OFFICIAL figures released today (Thursday 24 February) have confirmed a fourth annual reduction in the number of people sleeping on the streets of Greater Manchester.
Data published today by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities have verified the reduction documented by Greater Manchester local authority teams in November 2021. During that count, local authority teams found 89 people – the first time since 2013 that the number of people sleeping rough had fallen below 100 on a single-night survey.
That represents a drop of 29 per cent on the previous year, and 67 per cent since 2017 – both of which are ahead of the national reductions of 9 per cent and 49 per cent respectively.
Despite this success, Greater Manchester has sounded a warning that the current cost-of-living crisis faced by households across the city-region risks throwing more people into precarious housing situations. This is echoed by the Crisis Homelessness Monitor for England, also published this week. While more dedicated support is in place across the 10 boroughs than ever before, the Mayor has called on the Government to work in partnership with Greater Manchester to tackle the root causes of homelessness and rough sleeping, requiring housing market reform and more.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “The progress we’ve made is proof of the real difference that our ground-breaking approach to rough sleeping is making to people’s lives. For the first time in a decade, the number of people sleeping on our streets is in double figures. This would not have been possible without the tireless work of our Homelessness Action Network and the hundreds of people across the city-region who have been on this journey with us and played their part.
“We know, however, that the job is not yet finished. These figures won’t be of comfort to anyone who’s had to weather the recent storms out on our streets.
“The pandemic brought immense pressure on people’s housing situations, leading to a rise in homelessness. We stepped up our response through our offer of a bed to everybody who needs one, with wrap-around support to help them get back of their feet. Now, the cost-of-living crisis threatens to push more people into untenable situations.
“Thanks to the collaborative approach we’ve adopted, we now have a dedicated infrastructure in place, putting us in a better position than ever before to respond to this crisis. Greater Manchester has agreed a new funding deal for A Bed Every Night to put it on a stronger, more sustainable footing. The Government deserves credit for recognising the success of the Housing First pilot here and extending it, and together with ABEN it is providing people with a pathway away from the streets. In spite of the challenges that we face, our commitment to end rough sleeping is stronger than ever, and we will continue making every effort to achieve this goal.”
Dedicated support across Greater Manchester
Since 2017, Greater Manchester has put in place a system of dedicated support schemes and strategic working to reduce rough sleeping and tackle the root causes of homelessness.
A Bed Every Night (ABEN) was introduced by the Mayor to provide shelter and personal support on an emergency basis to people who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets. Twenty-one organisations across the city-region provide accommodation through ABEN, including specific provision for women, LGBTQ+ people, those with pets, and people with No Recourse to Public Funds. Greater Manchester leaders recently agreed a new three-year plan for ABEN, with funding set out until 2025.
From April to December 2021, 2,418 accommodation placements were made in ABEN services, and 41 per cent of people moved on positively into other housing settings, the majority to supported accommodation and private rented tenancies.
Kevin, who used ABEN services in Leigh when he left prison in April 2021, is one of those people. Through ABEN he was offered mental health support and counselling, as well as support with substance misuse from local authority teams, enabling him to concentrate on volunteering at The Brick before moving into independent accommodation. He’s since found a new apartment and paid work, and gives public talks in Wigan.
Kevin said: “I’d just come out of prison and got offered to go to ABEN. The Leigh site took me in and offered me support. What ABEN do is belting. It’s getting people off the streets, it’s offering them that chance, giving them a bed.
“A lot of people when they come out of prison they end up back on the streets, then they end up committing crime, and going back round in a big circle. ABEN has fixed a lot of problems, giving someone a roof over their head. It’s a good start, and then people realise: ‘I’ve got a start here in life. I’m not back out on the streets from day one.’”
Since July 2020, almost 2,000 people have moved on from A Bed Every Night accommodation to other housing settings, including social housing, supported housing, or tenancies in the private rented sector.
Housing First, the pilot scheme which provides people with homes and person-centred, trauma-informed support, has also helped 311 people in Greater Manchester into secure tenancies. The pilot is expected to be extended to at least March 2024, recognising the vital need for continued support to those on the programme.
Prevention and cost-of-living pressures
While these initiatives have played an important part in considerably reducing the number of people sleeping on the streets of Greater Manchester, there remains a broader challenge in addressing housing inequality and preventing homelessness.
Last year Greater Manchester leaders launched the city-region’s first ever Homelessness Prevention Strategy. Co-produced with people who have lived experience of homelessness and rough sleeping, the Strategy builds on the successes and lessons of existing initiatives to set out a long-term vision for addressing the root causes of these issues.
Greater Manchester is also working with the Greater Manchester Better Outcomes Partnership (GMBOP) to deliver a Young Person’s Homelessness Prevention Pathfinder, which works with 18- to 35-year-olds at imminent risk of homelessness. Adopting a person-centred approach, it provides tailored support to help young people develop new skills, tackle barriers affecting their ability to maintain tenancies, and dedicated support for mental health and wellbeing. The Pathfinder aims to work with more than 1,500 people in the next three years.
Paul Dennett, City Mayor of Salford and Greater Manchester’s Lead for Homelessness, said: “We’re proud of the fact that Greater Manchester’s partnership model for tackling rough sleeping has resulted in a big reduction in street homelessness in our city-region. Bringing together council teams, charities, voluntary and faith organisations, and with the support and generosity of our residents, we’ve been able and ready to offer emergency support to everyone who needs it.
“The pandemic catalysed a national effort to bring everyone in, recognising the grave injustice of leaving people out on the streets while a dangerous virus spread through the country. But there are never any circumstances in which it is acceptable for people to be left without a roof over their heads, and while we have succeeded in bringing many more people into safe and secure accommodation, there remains a burgeoning crisis of homelessness and housing precarity.
“Our focus is squarely on tackling the structural inequalities that left people more exposed to the pandemic, and which continue to leave them exposed to the shock of inflationary pressures and uncertainty of the economic climate. It’s why we’re planning to deliver at least 50,000 good, genuinely affordable homes by 2037, and why our Homelessness Prevention Strategy is creating a system-wide response to address the wider determinants of homelessness and rough sleeping.
“This is also why we need the Government to work with us to deliver increased investment in safe, decent, truly affordable and accessible housing, overturning years of the housing market’s failure to provide the types and tenures of homes that are needed.”
Supporters of ABEN include the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity, which funded 21,900 nights’ accommodation in 2021/22. People can donate to the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity at https://gmmayorscharity.org.uk/donate.
Notes to Editors
The full snapshot can be found online here: Rough sleeping snapshot in England: autumn 2021 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
For reasons of confidentiality, official figures do not record the number of people counted in a local authority area if the total is below five, unless no people are counted. As a result, official Government figures record a total of 84 for Greater Manchester.
Article Published: 24/02/2022 11:53 AM