Homeless Rights Campaigners Meet with Rector of St Ann’s Church

The Rector of St Ann’s Church, Nigel Ashworth, held a meeting with the homeless protestors in the church chapel on Thursday the 4th of June. The Rector said the meeting, with refreshments, was a “welcome to the neighbourhood” for the protestors and that St Anne’s church, consecrated in 1712, was “an open church, and they were welcome to attend the regular free music performances available”. He added that “there would always be a sympathetic ear available if any of the protestors wanted to discuss their troubles”

Danny Jones is an activist supporter of the Homeless Rights of Justice Manchester campaign who has been with the camp since day one. He explained to the Rector that the protest initially had been “only planned for one night” on April the 15th in Albert Square. As more homeless people joined the demonstration, they became aware of the benefits (security, access to information, food and the support of their peers) the homeless people received from being in the camp.

Protest camp banner in St Ann's Square

Protest camp banner in St Ann’s Square

Due to the camp becoming a “homeless resource”, and the amount of support it was getting from the public, it was decided to keep the protest going. He also described how the activists and homeless members of the protest group were “working well together” and had formed a community dedicated to promoting the aims of the protest.

The aims of the protest are set out in an open letter to the council, which can be signed to show support for the protest. The council recently replied to a 38 Degrees petition, in support of the camp that was handed in on the 13th of May, the reply can be read in full here, the gist of the reply was that the council were doing all they could to re-house the homeless.

Rhetta Moran from RAPAR, a local human rights organisation that has been supporting the camp since Albert Square, was also present at the meeting. Rhetta praised the sense of community within the camp and the sense of safety it engendered for the homeless protestors. The “unique” nature of the camp was also raised, and that it was becoming increasingly important in highlighting the plight of the homeless nationally.

Some of the homeless protestors raised the issue of how dangerous it could be on the streets, and occasional abuse they have received from drunk people passing the camp at night. The Rector said he understood that the streets were particularly dangerous for single homeless people, and was sorry to see that “Manchester had the third highest level of drunken abusive behaviour in the country”. Other protestors also thanked the Rector for inviting them into the Church and offering his support to the camp members.

The Rector said it was important to dismiss the”negative stereotypes” that some members of the public hold against the homeless, and that the “Links between us are more important than what separates”. He added that the “camp members need to be, and were, good ambassadors for the homeless” and praised the camp members for the good order of the camp and their behaviour while in St Ann’s Square.

Protest camp with St Ann's Church in background.

Protest camp with St Ann’s Church in background.

Response to reply of MCC to 38 Degrees petition supporting HROJMcr

Below is my reply to Mr Delap, which I posted of today. The reply from Alex Delap, to the petition can be found here.

Dear Mr Delap,

Thank you for your timely and comprehensive reply to the petition delivered to you in support of the Homeless Rights of Justice Manchester campaign. The petition when handed in had 886 signatures on it, which was whittled down to 111 following Manchester City Councils petition guidelines of only accepting signatures with a Manchester post code. In my opinion, in this case, it would have been fairer to include signatures from Greater Manchester, as a number of the campaigners (and other homeless people in Manchester) are from outside Manchester. Maybe you will have to consider petitions (and homelessness) on a bigger scale when Devo-Manc arrives?

I am pleased to hear that Manchester City Council often makes offers of accommodation outside its statutory duties. And agree that this must be very difficult at times when considering the complex nature of the needs and problems you are presented with by homeless people. Alex you have provided me with reassurance that you are doing all you can to secure accommodation in the current homelessness services setup within Manchester City Council.

The unpleasant fact however is, what you are doing is not enough. And the only thing that can change that fact is more thought, energy and resources being applied to the problem of homelessness.

The government statistics show a steady increase, in the UK, of households accepted as statutorily homeless since 2009. Government figures show there were 12,540 households accepted, in England, as statutorily homeless in the first quarter of 2014, this had risen to 13,650 by the last quarter of 2014. The number of English households in temporary accommodation rose from 58,440 to 61,970 between 31st March 2014 and the 31st Dec. 2014. MCCs annual count of rough sleepers in Manchester on one night last November came to 43, in 2010 the number was 7; local charities estimate that the real number is double that of the annual official count.

This problem can only get worse with the coming £12 billion in cuts to services promised by the Tory government. They also have plans to prevent under 21 year olds receiving housing benefit and to sell of more social housing with no firm plans on how to replace the lost housing stock. Can you see the problem getting any better if we continue along the same course?

I fear, Alex, that you are approaching a perfect storm. The conditions being created by the government’s pursuit of austerity, pretty much every cut the government makes to public spending will have the effect of putting more people on the streets. And is there any more money being provided for Homelessness Services to deal with this increase? No, as their budgets are being slashed just like every other department; with a callous disregard for the growing number of people in need within the UK. Maybe you should consider changing jobs before the storm becomes a hurricane.

So the majority of the blame for this ‘storm’ lies with the Tory government, I agree. But I have heard nothing from the Labour Council or MPs in Manchester to raise this issue of increasing social deprivation caused by austerity measures that target the weakest in our society, rather than the strongest. I want the Labour party within Manchester TO MAKE SOME NOISE! I want you to bang drums and blow trumpets into the ears of David Cameron so that he removes his head from the clouds and actually notices what austerity is doing, not just to Manchester but the whole country.

I applaud the recent meeting MCC had with the homeless campaigners. The campaigners came away feeling it had been a positive meeting, and are hopeful progress can be made in the coming fortnightly meetings of the steering group on homelessness policy. However there needs to be money made available to implement any changes that are decided upon in the new homelessness strategy for Manchester.

Yours Sincerely
Conrad Bower

Manchester homeless fight for justice – Contributoria proposal

If you would like to see the article commisioned and published you should vote for it. Very simple procedure just sign up with email address and password, you then get 50 points to vote with every month; you can also then submit your own proposals.

https://www.contributoria.com/issue/2015-08/556cace5ffa490001600007f

Manchester City Council reply to 38 Degrees petition

I received this email yesterday repling to the petition that was handed in. I will compose a reply to it by tomorrow. Is there anything I should include in the reply?

The gist of it is that they are doing all they can do, and stating the steps they have to go through when offering homeless people a place.

‘Dear Mr Bower

Thank you for your petition requesting that the Council guarantee everyone in the homeless protest camp a permanent home.

As you know, the petition has been classed as an ordinary petition for response by a senior officer. I am the officer with responsibility for the City Council’s in-house Homelessness Services. These include the team that investigates applications for assistance under the Homelessness legislation and a range of temporary supported accommodation schemes.

The government sets out the criteria under which we are required to provide accommodation, advice or an offer of settled accommodation. This is set out in the Housing Act 1996 Pt VII (as amended). The majority of single homeless people, including many rough sleepers, are classified as not being in priority need for accommodation. In these cases, a local authority is not under a duty to provide accommodation. Where a person is not in priority need, and is not intentionally homeless, the local authority may choose to make accommodation available if it wishes. Manchester has always sought to assist people who are rough sleeping in the city by making accommodation available outside its statutory duties. This would usually be in one of our supported housing schemes. We have often accommodated people who might not otherwise be able to access accommodation because of their previous conduct in a tenancy or because of a current chaotic lifestyle. This generally means spending time in temporary accommodation so that our on-site staff can provide support to the former rough sleeper so that they can rebuild their independent living skills in readiness for moving on to settled, permanent accommodation. We also help rough sleepers to access supported accommodation that is commissioned by Manchester City Council but provided by other registered housing providers.

Many rough sleepers have very complex histories and support needs that may make it difficult for them to access accommodation, either temporary or permanent. For this reason, a number of different options may be made available, dependent on individual need. For example, a rough sleeper may be offered short-term emergency accommodation to get them off the streets while more suitable longer term accommodation is sourced. Part of this process will include looking at the person’s history and undertaking a risk assessment to make sure that the accommodation offered is suitable for the individual, for other residents and for staff working at the scheme. This is part of a pathway approach based on the individual moving through supported accommodation into independent, settled living.

Officers from the Council’s homelessness services have engaged with the homeless people within the camp at each of its locations and continue to do so. We have been able to secure accommodation for a number of rough sleepers in either our own or other providers’ supported accommodation schemes. We regularly attend the camp and have established a drop-in for homeless people away the camp so that they can come and talk about their housing needs.

We will continue to offer support to all homeless individuals within the camp and our aim is to ensure that rough sleepers receive an appropriate offer of support and accommodation. We will continue to offer that support even if an individual does not initially engage with us, or one of our partner agencies.

I hope this provides you with reassurance that we are doing all we can to secure accommodation for rough sleepers in Manchester.

Thanks

Alex

Alex Delap
Service Manager, Homelessness
Directorate for Children and Families
Manchester City Council
Town Hall Extension
PO Box 532
Manchester
M60 2LA’