A meeting, on the 5th of June, between members of the Homeless Rights of Justice Manchester campaign and Manchester City Council (MCC) was a “positive” one according to Danny Jones a founding member of the campaign. Previous discussions with the council, early in the protest had made no progress and had led to a period with no discussion between the two sides when the litigious side of the conflict dominated (see previous story in Manchester Mule). Danny described MCC agreeing to drop its intentionally homeless designation when considering people for housing a “mini victory” for the campaign.
The meeting took place at the Booth Centre and included two members from MCC; Beth Knowles (Labour Councillor, City Centre) and Hazel Summers (Director of Families, Health and Wellbeing); five members from the protest camp; Danny Jones, Adam Whelan, Scott Russell, Jamie and Joe; and two members of the Greater Manchester Unite Community Branch; John Clegg and Chris Mcbride.
During the meeting homeless members of the group described their background and the reasons why they became homeless so the council members could have a greater understanding of their issues. The setting up of a steering group was also agreed upon that will meet fortnightly to discuss ways to improve the homelessness services in Manchester.
Danny Jones said of the future steering group meetings “We are going to discuss all the issues, everything in regards to being homeless; so from the moment you walk in for assessment to all the way through, all the paperwork is going to be looked at.” He went on to add “The council have said they are looking to implement the new strategy by October, which is pretty quick … seeing as they have not developed their strategy yet. This is hopefully why they have asked for help.”
Danny Jones also explained that each meeting will have a specific agenda and homeless/recently re-housed members of the community with the most experience in that particular subject would be included in the meetings. In the interim till October the homeless outreach team will come down to the camp, meet with people on an individual basis and find suitable accommodation for them. “To allow them to do that we have asked them to drop the title of intentionally homeless, so that no longer applies” said Danny who thinks the title of intentionally homeless is ridiculous as “nobody makes themselves intentionally homeless”. The term intentionally homeless means that the person has left accommodation that they could have stayed in, which means they are not entitled to an offer of accommodation from MCC.
When asked to comment on the meeting Councillor Paul Andrews, executive member for adult health and wellbeing, said: “We listened to concerns from representatives of the protest camp and invited them to work with us as we devise a new strategy for tackling homelessness. We have also committed to holding regular meetings with homeless people, including those who have been on the camp, as we take this strategy forward.” He went on to add “We also gave assurances that we would continue to engage with members of the camp, and our outreach workers will try to get vulnerable people off the street… During the last year we have provided emergency accommodation to 1700 people including both homeless families and single people.”
During the interview Danny Jones announced he would be leaving the camp, currently in St Anne’s Square “we hit the two month mark on Wednesday, I think the camp is pretty much running itself now… I am going to pull out as of Wednesday [10th June]”. Danny who has been with the camp since day one assured me that he would still be supporting the campaign but not as a full time resident of the camp, he added initially the protest camp “was just an awareness raising exercise, and it has turned into one of the longest running camps in the UK…The camp has done what it set out to do and that is to raise homelessness to the top of the agenda.”