Andy Burnham stands at a lectern in front of a room, as three other people sit at a top table to his right
Homelessness The Mayor

Mayor Andy Burnham issues homelessness warning at event marking success of Housing First scheme

Mayor Andy Burnham has made an urgent call on Government to work with Greater Manchester to prevent an increase in homelessness and rough sleeping, as national policy decisions put growing pressure on local services.

He warned that progress made across Greater Manchester, including through Housing First, was being jeopardised by the consequences of Government policies that increased demand at a local level without additional funding and resources.

The Mayor made the comments today (Friday 10 November) as he took part in a conference co-hosted by Homeless Link to mark the achievements of the Greater Manchester Housing First scheme, which he said had been a “game-changer” for the city-region.

He highlighted the recent acceleration of processing asylum applications, saying it showed a lack of joined-up working across Government. Without the accompanying resources, he warned, an additional 2,500 people are liable to be in need of homelessness and rough sleeping support across Greater Manchester before the end of 2023.

Housing First, originally rolled out as a pilot scheme in 2019, recognises the essential importance of permanent housing to enable people with multiple and complex needs to move away from homelessness. Traditional services do not work for many people who are experiencing homelessness, which is why some individuals continue to sleep rough or move around the system. A person-centred and trauma-informed approach is a better way of supporting these individuals, which is what Housing First offers through ongoing intensive support.

The combination of this support and permanent accommodation means that the number of people more likely to stay in their homes and not end up back on the streets is considerably higher in Housing First programmes compared to other programmes, representing value for money.

Since it was launched in Greater Manchester, nearly 375 people with entrenched experiences of rough sleeping have been supported into safe and secure accommodation, with more than three quarters of those people sustaining their tenancies.

Greater Manchester Housing First is a partnership between 12 organisations across the city-region, led by the Great Places Housing Group.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said:

“Instead of criminalising charities for providing tents we should be supporting interventions we know are effective to become business as usual.

“The ‘Everyone In’ initiative proved that, if you provide unconditional access to housing and wraparound support, people can leave rough sleeping behind for good. Housing First is a lifelong extension of that concept and has been a game-changer in our efforts to end rough sleeping. The Home Secretary’s comments risk stigmatising and dehumanising people who are already experiencing the sharpest disadvantages.

“Homelessness is the end product of systemic failures in our housing market, not a lifestyle choice.

“If the Government is serious about ending rough sleeping, I would urge them to work with us, our local authorities, housing providers, VCSE and faith sectors to tackle all the barriers and give people who need it a roof over their heads, so they are safe and have a home. This also means extending funding for the very successful Housing First pilot or better still, make it permanent and roll it out across the country.”

Last month, Greater Manchester Leaders warned that the city-region was facing unprecedented demand on local services, in part as a result of national policy decisions. They set out a range of proposals to mitigate these challenges, including unfreezing Local Housing Allowance in the Autumn Statement, bringing forward measures in the Renters’ Reform Act, increasing investment in homelessness and rough sleeping responses, and working closely with local authorities on long-term investment in prevention services.

The Mayor further added:

“We have been completely committed to making Housing First work in Greater Manchester, and we have the results to prove it. We also have a raft of other programmes that have helped reduce rough sleeping over the years, including A Bed Every Night, which operates in all ten of our boroughs with 552 bed spaces and supports over 830 people a month.

“However, despite all our collective best efforts in Greater Manchester to reduce rough sleeping, the numbers are now creeping back up. This is a direct result of unprecedented demand on our services caused by Government policies, from the freeze in Local Housing Allowance to asylum policies that have seen people turfed out of their homes and on to the streets, and a housing system that has seen over 5,000 households and over 6,400 children living in temporary accommodation in our city-region.

“If we truly want to end rough sleeping we need a real transformation of national housing policies and to tackle poverty and inequalities.

“I will be writing to the Government to discuss our concerns and propose pragmatic solutions to design homelessness risk out of the asylum process.”

Rick Henderson, CEO of Homeless Link said:

“There is no reason why anyone should be homeless in England. No one should be sleeping rough in a tent. And yet rough sleeping is up 74% since 2010.

“The Government could and should act – not by demonising and criminalising people, but by providing affordable housing and the support needed to keep it. For some people experiencing homelessness the enduring complex health needs caused by trauma and homelessness mean they require long-term, continuous care. This is best provided by the open-ended, evidence-based support of high-fidelity Housing First.

“The holistic approach to ending homelessness that we see in Housing First should also be adopted by Government, so that the efforts of one department are not undermined by the policies of another. Government should build on the success of existing Housing First pilots such as those in Greater Manchester and rollout Housing First across England so that it is available to everyone who needs it.”

Emily Cole, Programme Lead, Greater Manchester Housing First, said:

“Delivering our Housing First programme we see every day the huge impact of putting people at the centre of their recovery by providing a safe, secure home and individual, tailored support provided by partners all working together.

“Over the last five years we have worked with our Greater Manchester Housing Providers partnership to provide permanent homes to over 375 people, but demand for housing massively outstrips supply and there is only so much we can do to creatively attempt to provide more housing solutions. The issue is a structural one we quite simply need to build more affordable housing.

“There is an international evidence base that demonstrates the effectiveness of Housing First in ending homelessness for people with multiple and complex issues who face huge disadvantages.

“We are proud to co-host the national Housing First conference with Homeless Link alongside the GMCA to highlight the great work going on nationally and to make the case for continued funding for Housing First as an approach that we know works.”

Article Published: 10/11/2023 14:49 PM