Anyone who lives in Greater Manchester or has passed through the city centre will have noticed that there are more people sleeping rough on our streets.
I’ve written about homelessness in this column before, yet the full extent of the problem is so often hidden from view. What is less visible is the growing numbers of families who are being forced to live in temporary emergency accommodation; families with children who have no other option than to stay in meagre bed and breakfasts and other unsuitable sites, often for months at a time.
Sadly, the problem is getting worse – new figures released in January by the government showed rough sleeping across the conurbation has risen over 40% in just 12 months, this was almost three-times the rise seen nationally which stood at 15%. Sadly, our city has nearly twice as many rough sleepers as Birmingham, and almost three times that of Liverpool.
I’ve been clear for some time that the responsibility for this state of affairs lies squarely at the feet of the Government, for a number of reasons.
Since the Tories entered Government in 2010, home-ownership has fallen to a 30 year low, the budget to tackle rough sleeping has been halved, rough sleeping has more than doubled, as well as this new home builds still haven’t recovered to pre-recession levels. Sadly, the Government only seem interested in keeping in power and factional in-fighting over what shade of Brexit to deliver.
But where the Government are continuing to fail, dedicated public servants across Greater Manchester are putting forward radical ideas to end the scourge of rough sleeping.
During last year’s mayoral election Andy Burnham presented his ambitious plans to end rough sleeping in Greater Manchester entirely by 2020. Although difficult to deliver entirely, Andy has pulled together private businesses and public enterprises as well as voluntary and faith organisations to help tackle this issue.
Recently, Andy announced £7 million in new investment which will go towards funding 450 supported homes for people living on the streets, focusing on those with the most complex needs. The cash will contribute towards Greater Manchester’s ‘housing first’ pilot, which gets a roof over people’s heads before tackling other underlying issues such as drug abuse and mental health problems.
There’s a long way to go, but in Andy Burnham we now have a Mayor who is serious about breaking the cycle of homelessness across Greater Manchester and determined to ensure our local response is as strong as possible.
But effectively tackling the root causes of homelessness requires a concerted national response, including an overhaul of Tory policies which are contributing to it.