THE MAYOR of Greater Manchester has welcomed official figures showing the total number of people sleeping rough in the city-region has fallen for the first time in eight years.
Andy Burnham, who has pledged to end the need for rough sleeping by 2020, said: “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.”
Official government figures published today (Thursday 31 January) show that on the night of the national rough sleeper count last November all 10 Greater Manchester boroughs’ figures combined showed 229 people sleeping outdoors, a reduction of 49 over the last 12 months. In eight of the boroughs numbers have either stabilised or fallen.
Since the start of November the Mayor’s A Bed Every Night campaign has helped 1,236 people into safe, warm and supported accommodation. It is the basis of a 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.
Andy said: “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.
“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.”
The national rough sleeper count takes place every year on one night in November, with local authorities up and down the country submitting data to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). Figures are independently verified and the MHCLG subsequently publishes nationwide data early the following year.
These figures give the best indication of the numbers of rough sleepers on our streets, but it is generally accepted that the actual number is likely to be higher. However, these figures provide solid evidence of a reduction, which is backed up by what we are seeing on the streets.
For example, the latest figures, relating to the early morning of Friday 16 November, demonstrate that the number of people sleeping rough in Salford decreased by 65%, with 17 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.
City Mayor of Salford, Paul Dennett, also leads on Housing, Planning and Homelessness for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA). He said: “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.
“We’ve had approximately 40 people in A Bed Every Night accommodation and with other support this has reduced our annual rough sleeping figure from 49 to 17.
“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.”
In Manchester the number of people counted as sleeping rough in November increased to 123 individuals. Cllr Sue Murphy leads on homelessness for the City Council, and said: “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.
“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.”
A Bed Every Night, supported by local authorities and supplemented by generous donations from Greater Manchester’s businesses and members of the public, is the first step off the street for many of the city-region’s homeless and is currently funded to run to the end of March. Funds raised so far exceed £200,000.
Operating alongside the scheme is the existing Social Impact Bond (SIB) which has thus far secured independent living spaces for 223 of the city-region’s previously most entrenched rough sleepers.
Next month Greater Manchester’s work to end rough sleeping will go even further with the launch of 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.