Blank.jpg

News Articles

Homeless protest

 

April 19

Homeless people and anti-austerity campaigners set up a protest camp outside Manchester Town Hall to raise awareness of the crisis in temporary housing. The group of 30 people call themselves Homeless Rights of Justice.

 

April 20

Manchester Town Hall is granted a court injunction to shift the protesters.

 

April 28

The group move the camp to St Peter's Square and vow to remain until their campaign is successful.

 

May 1

Another possession order is served on the group which they fight against in court. Campaigners say they will remain in high profile spots across the city.

 

May 5

Homeless protesters shift their camp to outside Manchester Central Library after being refused entry inside.

 

May 12

A 24-year-old is arrested at the site of the camp on suspicion of assault. Another man is arrested the next day for smashing a town hall window with a glass bottle.

 

May 19

The protesters lose their appeal against eviction and are kicked out of St Peter's Square. They set up camp around the corner in St Ann's Square.

 

June 2

Manchester City Council begin bid to ban the homeless camp from the entire city centre.

 

June 15

Former members set up a camp close to Castlefield Bowl.

 

July 4

Leader of the Green Party visits the camp and blames “Tory government cuts”.

 

July 30

Town Hall bosses win an injunction to prevent anyone pitching a tent without permission in the entire city centre.

 

August 14

Council officers enforce possession order in St Ann's Square and Castlefield.

 

August 18

Some of the former members of the homeless protest set up camp in upmarket shopping area King Street

 

September 3

Police seize stolen goods from protesters in King Street including alcohol and mobile phone covers.

 

September 9

A homeless refuge named The Ark is created under the Mancunian Way. A petition is launched to try and save the area from closure.

 

September 18

Scuffles break out as university security guards attempt to evict homeless from The Ark refuge camp which is on Manchester Metropolitan University land.

 

September 22

Rough sleepers vow to continue to fight as they camp out on pavement

 

October 3-4

Piccadilly Gardens: Anti-austerity protest rave

 

October 7

Homeless activists occupy office block on Charlotte Street

 

October 16

Security increased at London Road fire station over squatter fears

 

October 18

Gary Neville tells homeless protest group they can stay at occupied site until February

 

 

 

Number of people sleeping rough in Greater Manchester soars by 50pc in a year

 

1 MAR 2015

Manchester Evening News - BY DAVID OTTEWELL , TODD FITZGERALD

 

Campaigners say official government figures underestimate growing problem on our region's streets

The number of people sleeping rough in Greater Manchester has risen by nearly 50 per cent in a year, according to official figures - but campaigners say it is much more. Statistics show there were 101 rough sleepers in the region in autumn 2014, 31 more than the same time the previous year. In Manchester, the figure was up 79pc from 24 to 43. The city now has more rough sleepers than anywhere outside London. Rochdale saw a rise from six to 17, and Salford from seven to 14. According to government figures, the number of rough sleepers in Bury fell from 10 to ZERO. But campaigners say that, in reality, is unlikely. Oldham also has no one sleeping on its streets, the figures suggest.

Rough sleeping figures are collated by the government once a year from data provided from councils across the country. Town halls collect data by actually carrying out a count of rough sleepers on a single night, or by compiling an estimate based on information including intelligence from outreach charities and the police. Critics have long argued official figures are likely to be a significant underestimate as they are based on a snapshot of a single night.

In December, the M.E.N. revealed the shocking extent of the 'hidden homeless' in Greater Manchester. Our investigation showed a 'massive' rise in rough sleeping since the recession, with people living in caves, old air raid shelters and under a supermarket in Stockport. Coun Daniel Gillard, who led a Manchester council inquiry on the issue that spoke to dozens of homeless organisations, said he believes around 150 people are now sleeping rough in the city centre - triple the official figure. He said authorities had more or less got a grip on the problem in 2009, but since then numbers have rocketed. Campaigners say benefit sanctions and evictions have led to a rise in rough sleepers across the region.

Manchester's Booth Centre, which provides advice, activities, training and hot food for the homeless and those at risk of homelessness, said it sees around 170 people a week, a third more than two years ago. More and more people attend the centre after losing their job. Rent arrears, combined with benefits sanctions, are a major issue. Manager Amanda Croome said: "The figures don't surprise us. The increases we're seeing across Greater Manchester, we see on a daily basis; this isn't a shock. "But we're really, very, very concerned about the rises. Anyone walking through Manchester couldn't fail to see the increase. "We're particularly concerned about it in light of the cuts in council funding, which are going to impact upon services helping homeless people. "The situation is only going to get worse. We're appealing to councils across Greater Manchester to rethink decisions on cutting services for the homeless, otherwise, we'll see another increase next year. "We are seeing more people becoming homeless and it's harder to get them off the streets. The prospect of what they're planning now is really frightening. "We've lost more than 150 beds in hostels in the last year. If we don't have the beds, we can't get people into them."

Despite the closure of The Salvation Army's 110-bed hostel and rising homeless figures, Manchester council is now looking at cutting funding further as it seeks £55m in savings for 2015. The Booth Centre and other organisations, bid for funding through the council's 'homeless prevention grant'. That could be cut by £200,000. Booth Centre bosses they could lose a third of their funding. As part of further £1.8m cuts, funding will be cut at ten accommodation schemes, including hostels. Council bosses insist none will close, and that those currently in accommodation schemes will still remain there until they 'naturally move on', or providers find alternative arrangements. Town halls across the region say continuing government cuts mean support for vulnerable people, including the homeless, will be put under increasing pressure. Council officials admit cuts could see rough sleeping rise further - as well as crime and hospital admissions - but say they're working hard to mitigate the impact of savings.

''This is just a snapshot of one night...'

Councillor Paul Andrews, executive member for adults, health and wellbeing at Manchester council, said: "This figure is a snapshot of the number of people sleeping rough on any given night, but given that we are living in very challenging economic times it is perhaps not surprising that the number of rough sleepers is increasing both nationally and here in Manchester - as the city is a major centre that people gravitate towards. "We have had to reduce our homeless prevention grant to voluntary organisations by just under £200,000 due to the government's ongoing cuts, but we continue to take this issue very seriously and work closely with voluntary sector organisations to provide support to rough sleepers. "Under the current budget consultation we have proposed plans, which have been overwhelmingly supported by all agencies involved, aimed at focusing our resources on services aimed at moving rough sleepers off the streets, helping them become independent by being given access to employment, education and training. "We will also focus on providing a specialist homelessness prevention and advice service for young people and stopping homeless people from becoming rough sleepers. As well as this, we will provide specialist support during periods of cold weather to ensure homeless people and rough sleepers are helped though a more coordinated approach that will see a number of organisations providing advice, assistance and help in one place."

'It's a tragic situation that leaves us struggling to help those in need...'

Numbers in Rochdale continue to increase. Mark Widdup, the council's director of economy and environment, said: "The council is committed to trying to prevent people from sleeping rough, and in the three months leading up to December 31, we helped over 400 households to prevent them from becoming homeless. "On November 27, Rochdale undertook a rough sleeper head count along with other local authorities, resulting in 17 individuals reporting themselves as sleeping rough. "This represents a snapshot of a single day, so is not a consistent or reliable representation of what is a continually fluctuating homeless situation across the region. "There are no planned cuts in funding for homeless provision this year, but the ongoing cuts in central government funding mean that providing support for vulnerable members of the community will continue to be a significant challenge in future budgets." Salford, according to the figures, has just 14 rough sleepers, up 100pc. But campaigners say there are many more. Around £1.4m will be slashed from the council's already dwindling £8m 'supporting people' budget used for helping vulnerable adults, families in poverty and homeless families. City mayor Ian Stewart said: "Like most councils, Salford has seen a rise in rough sleeping and homelessness due to the economic situation, changes to welfare benefits, the bedroom tax and a shortage of affordable homes. "Meanwhile, we have faced huge reductions in our core funding with £31m more to come this year and Salford also receives the lowest amount of homelessness prevention grant in Greater Manchester, despite huge pressures. "It's a tragic situation which leaves us struggling to help those in need. The scale of the cuts mean we have to reduce services right across the board to set a legal budget. It looks as if we will have to take as much as £1.4m from vital homelessness support services. It's heartbreaking but this is a national problem and it needs urgent national attention. "Meanwhile, we are trying to do what we can - working with partner organisations and putting support in to try and prevent people becoming homeless in the first place and trying to ensure those who are find the help they need from our services, partner organisations and local charities."

'These figures are way off and devalue the work we do...'

In Stockport, the Wellspring centre estimates a 60pc increase in rough sleepers and believes there to now be around 50 in the town. Jonathan Billings, who runs the centre, cast doubt on figures for the borough. He said: "Seven is a very low figure. Throughout 2014, 324 people presented homeless at The Wellspring, compared to 149 in 2013. "In November 2014, we did a homeless count with the help of hundreds of local people via Facebook who provided us with information regarding where they had seen people sleeping. On the day of our count we recorded 35 people. "These figures are always way off. They are tokenistic and devalue the work that people to do help hundreds of homeless people. "Figures like this make it difficult for services like ours to get funding in place, because the numbers say demand is a lot lower than it actually is. "The rise in homeless people is rising much more quickly than this."

Evictions and repossessions forcing people to sleep rough

Evictions are just one issue leading to a rise in homelessness. The number of renters evicted from their homes reached a record high in Greater Manchester last year. The number of instances of tenants turfed out of their homes through the courts throughout the region reached 2,032 last year - the highest total since records began in 2003. Several boroughs, including Rochdale, Stockport and Salford, saw a record number of cases of tenants having their homes repossessed. There were 193 evictions through the courts in Rochdale in 2014. That represented a 62.2 per cent increase on the 2013 figure of 119 cases - the sharpest rise in the region. Evictions jumped nearly 20 per cent in Stockport to a record high of 171 cases, while in Salford there were 278 cases. In Manchester, there were 501 incidences of renters having their homes repossessed last year. That was down 6.2pc compared to 2013 but still higher than any single year between 2005 and 2012. Repossessions were up year-on-year everywhere in the region except Manchester and Oldham.

 

 

 

 

Albert Square eviction hearing brought forward in bid to end homelessness protest outside Manchester Town Hall

 

17:18, 23 APR 2015

Manchester Evening News - BY TODD FITZGERALD

 

Manchester council bosses have succeeded in bringing forward a court date to determine the future of a camp set up outside Manchester Town Hall by anti-austerity protesters

 

A hearing to determine when a group of anti-cuts protesters who have set up camp in Albert Square will be evicted has been moved forward. Council bosses have succeeded in their bid to bring forward a court date that will rule over whether the demonstrators can be kicked out. Town hall bosses were granted an injunction to move the group away from Manchester Town Hall on Monday and members of the group were apparently handed copies of the possession order by council staff. But the demonstrators launched an appeal against the eviction notice earlier this week, which extended their time on the site to Tuesday next week pending a court hearing. Now, council bosses who met with a judge today at Manchester Civil Justice Centre have succeeded in their bid to bring that hearing forward. It will take place on Friday at 10am, heard by District Judge Sunil Iyer. Some members of the group are being represented by Waddell Taylor Bryan Solicitors and are set to challenge the possession order under the Human Rights Act and the Housing Act.

Firm partner Ben Taylor said: “The court has to respect an individual’s home and only evict if it is legitimate and proportionate to do so. "I don’t believe that the court went through that exercise to assess those rights and to determine whether those rights should have been legitimately interfered with.” He said the camp is an act of protest and that under articles 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act, eviction would interfere with people’s right to freedom of expression.

 

“Manchester council owns the land and have brought these proceedings,” he added.

“But under the Housing Act 1996, Manchester council also has obligations and duties to assess and provide accommodation to the homeless who are unintentionally homeless and have a priority need. “I would have preferred to have seen Manchester council, instead of taking proceedings to evict, first to investigate whether any of the individuals on the land have homeless issues that the local authority has an obligation to address.” The move comes after council chiefs responded with fury to a demonstration about homelessness on Wednesday, April 15 which saw some protesters storm the building, before setting up the camp. A Manchester council spokesman said: “We attended court earlier this week and successfully applied for an order for possession of land, which would have enabled us to move the protesters from Albert Square this week. “Unfortunately, they have since applied to the courts for a hearing in which a district judge will listen to evidence from ourselves and a lawyer representing the protesters, and the eviction notice cannot be enforced before this hearing has taken place. “The hearing was originally set for next Tuesday, but we have now successfully applied to the courts to bring it forward and we will now be able to make our case tomorrow. “The delays have been incredibly disappointing as, following the behaviour of a group of protesters who behaved aggressively towards our staff and damaged property last week, we have had no choice but to increase security at the town hall while valuable police resources have also been tied up.”

 

Homeless protesters camped outside Manchester town hall move round the corner to St Peter's Square

 

10:47, 27 APR 2015

Manchester Evening News - BY ALEX HIBBERT

 

The group packed up earlier this morning before setting up a new camp outside Central Library and say they will remain in the city until their campaign in successful

 

The anti-cuts and homeless protesters camped outside Manchester Town Hall moved just around the corner to St Peter’s Square today - and vowed to remain in the city until their campaign is successful. The group started to pack up at around 4.30am before setting up camp again nearby, just outside the city’s library. They were in danger of being evicted by the council following a failed bid to overturn an eviction order at Manchester Civil Justice Centre on Friday. And today they said they will remain in the city centre’s public spaces until given assurances that the issue of homelessness is 'addressed properly' by authorities.

 

They are set to meet with town hall officials today to discuss their campaign.

 

Adam Whelan, a 24-year-old homeless outreach worker and one of the lead protesters, said: “At the meeting on Friday we were told that the council accepted that homelessness was an issue. “We were told that they wanted to deal with it, and were asked to help them do so. “All we want is a firm commitment that changes will be made and homeless people will be given proper support. “We weren’t handed an eviction notice today and so we were never evicted from the Albert Square site, we moved peacefully before we could be moved. “We will continue to move around and occupy land so that we remain in the public eye, we want to be here for the election, when all eyes will be on the town hall.

 

“Homelessness is not an issue that will just go away.” Members met with town hall officials on Friday and said talks were ‘amicable’. Town hall bosses were granted an injunction to move the group away from the town hall last Monday. But action stalled after an appeal was launched. Government figures show homelessness was up 79 per cent from 24 to 43 people in Manchester between 2013 and 2014. But campaigners say the true number is much higher. A Manchester City Council spokesman said:"We held an initial meeting with the protesters on Friday, in which they invited us to come back with positive suggestions for how we can work with them. "Following this, we have now met them for a second time and told them we will be happy to engage with them over the next few months and seek their input as we create a new strategy for tackling the issue of homelessness in Manchester.

"However, the protesters we met did not accept this offer to help ue take this forward.

"This is incredibly disappointing, as improving our homelessness service is an incredibly important piece of work which is a major priority for the City Council. "The protesters moved themselves to a new location in St Peters Square. We have told the protesters that if they do not move from this new location we will have no option but to return to court and seek a new eviction notice moving them from the square. The protesters have threatened that they will keep moving to high profile places in the city.

"In the meantime, The Council and GMP are continuing to engage with those protesters who need to be rehoused. We have made offers to a number of the protesters that have not been taken however we will continue to provide offers of alternative accommodation to those who need and request it."

 

 

Manchester council reveals homelessness camp has cost £88k as it kicks campaigners out of St Peter's Square

 

13:37, 19 MAY 2015

Manchester Evening News - BY KATIE BUTLER

 

But they say the fight for a roof over their heads is far from over – they've moved to St Ann's Square and begun to occupy a council marquee

 

Homeless protesters have been evicted from St Peter’s Square by council bailiffs and police... and have relocated to St Ann’s Square. There was some conflict between some members of the group towards officers when they were shown Manchester council’s possession order and asked to move this morning. The eviction came as the deputy leader of Manchester council claimed the camp has cost them a staggering £88,000 in additional policing since it started just over a month ago. Councillor Bernard Priest said the cost came from monitoring the campaigners with additional policing, security and legal costs since it set up on Albert Square on April 15. He said: “The camp has now cost the council and GMP more than £88,000 in additional policing, security and legal costs since it set up on Albert Square more than a month ago. "In the current climate, this is not an extra cost any public body can shoulder lightly.” Many chanted along with loud music played by some of the camp, with lyrics claiming Greater Manchester Police were the ‘council’s private army’.

 

Several members of the camp also claimed the court order had not been signed adequately which meant the possession was void. Protester Wesley Dove, 30, said: “They are trying to evict us from the streets, from concrete. It’s a joke. "They have spent so much money policing this, which could have paid for a brand new house for everyone here.” He said the real issues were not being tackled. “This is just the tip of the iceberg of homeless people in Manchester,” he added. “I could show you 80 or more beggars around these streets. And this is just Manchester, imagine what it’s like for the rest of the country. This needs to be addressed.” “They can’t evict us from Manchester. We will not go away and this is not the end,” he added. The protest started on April 15 with campaigners claiming there is a lack of services offered by the council to help the homeless. Many of the protesters have now relocated to St Ann’s Square, with some commandeering a council-owned marquee.

 

 

 

Homeless ex-soldier says he has been urinated on and spat at while living on streets of Manchester

 

10:29, 21 SEP 2015

Manchester Evening News - BY KATIE BUTLER

 

Billy Gage, who spent 11 years in the army but is now living on the streets, also had his sleeping bag set on fire

 

A former British soldier has told how he has been urinated on and had his sleeping bag set on fire while living on the streets of Manchester. Billy Gage went into the Armed Forces as soon as he left school at the age of 16 and spent 11 years serving his country as an All Arms Commando and went on several tours including Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Bosnia and Sierra Leone. After leaving in 2004 he started his own plastering business, got married and had a son, Daniel. But when his son was just six-years-old, Daniel tragically died. The 39-year-old said he is shocked there is not more help for soldiers and he is disgusted at how people treat those living on the streets. He said: “Sometimes I just go to a quiet street and cry to myself. I just can’t believe I’m in this situation. “I have put my life on the line for the good of this country and this is the way I’m treated? It’s disgusting.” He said he has been urinated on, spat on and even had his sleeping bag set on fire while being homeless.

 

“I’m not the only person that has served in the forces and is now on the streets. There are so many of us that are just forgotten about. We were just a number, and now when times are hard, they forget we even exist. “If I had my time again I wouldn’t go into the army. Look where it has got me. It has made me very bitter. “There is a military agreement in place because I have defended this country and every single person in it. But that has been forgotten about now.” Billy’s son died three years ago and since then he says the death has torn his world apart and he found himself living on and off the streets.

 

 

Council's bid to jail people living in homeless camps thrown out by judge

 

09:51, 1 OCT 2015

Manchester Evening News - BY ALEX HIBBERT

 

Manchester City Council had issued proceedings against seven individuals for breaching a city centre-wide injunction banning people from erecting tents to protest against the authority’s homeless policy

 

A legal bid to jail people living in homeless camps across Manchester has been thrown out by a judge. In what is thought to be a legal first, the council had issued proceedings against seven individuals for breaching a city centre-wide injunction banning people from erecting tents to protest against the authority’s homeless policy. The potential penalty for a breach is up to two years in prison or a £5,000 fine. But at a hearing at Manchester’s Civil Justice Centre, Judge Allan Gore said the way the council had presented its case was ‘fundamentally defective’,

 

Dismissing the council’s case, he said: “There is no dates, descriptions of behaviour or identification of which allegations are made against which defendant. “That is a fundamentally misconceived and inappropriate way to advance criminal proceedings, where the council seeks that the court orders to commit people to prison. “The failure to comply with the procedural directions and court order are so serious that the only proper course for me to adopt is to strike out this application.” He also said the council must foot the bill for the defendants’ legal costs in the case, which could amount to many thousands of pounds. Town hall bosses had applied for the city-wide injunction after a series of previous eviction notices prompted the homeless camps move on to different places in the city.

 

Since it was granted, possession orders have also been granted for land on King Street in the city centre and at the site of The Ark homeless shelter – where members of the camp clashed with bailiffs while being forcibly evicted a fortnight ago.

 

Speaking after the hearing, Wesley Dove, who was named as a defendant in the case, said: “Today justice has been served. We have said all along that we are not protesting, all we are trying to do is live. The council were trying to send us to prison for being homeless. It is not right.”

 

 

 

 

Squatters move into building that Manchester United legends Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs want to turn into hotel

 

17:02, 17 OCT 2015

Manchester Evening News - BY TODD FITZGERALD

 

The homeless campaigners set up camp inside the city centre's historic Stock Exchange in bid to set up a ‘community hub’ for rough sleepers

 

Squatters campaigning for the homeless have set up camp inside the landmark building that Manchester United legends Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs want to transform into a boutique hotel. They’ve taken up residence at Manchester’s historic Stock Exchange, claiming the legal right to occupy the building under squatter’s rights. It's part of the squatters renewed attempt to set up a ‘community hub’ for rough sleepers. The campaigners were kicked out of an empty office block on Charlotte Street in the city centre after police and council bosses secured a court order demanding they leave in 24 hours.

 

The Grade II-listed building on Norfolk Street is set to be transformed into a plush hotel by the Reds legends. It will feature 35 beds, a basement gym and spa, a roof-top private members’ terrace, a restaurant and a bar. Outline permission for the plan was given the green-light by council bosses in February. The Stock Exchange was built in 1906 and replaced an earlier one on Cross Street - where the Royal Exchange theatre stands now. It currently houses the restaurant Stock on the ground floor - although the eaterie has been closed for some time - and used to housed offices on the upper floors. Officers manning the GMP City Centre Twitter account confirmed squatters had occupied the building, tagging Giggs and Neville in the post. The Manchester Angels group posted a series of images inside the building, with the words ‘welcome to our second home’. Mr Hall, who has been involved in a number of initiatives in the city centre to help the homeless, said the group would simply move from building to building in the coming months as part of ‘Operation Safe Winter’.

 

He told the M.E.N: “We were going to appeal the Charlotte Street order, but there was no need when we have so many buildings to occupy in Manchester. “We have several buildings that we’ve occupied since August, so it’s only right we open them up for the homeless, who have nowhere to go. “We left Charlotte Street peacefully and tidy, with no criminal damage and without breaching the order. “Giggs and Neville have got a big fight on their hands. We will fight to stay here and challenge any order in court. “We’ve renamed it the ‘Sock Exchange’. Homeless people will be able to come here, get some new clothes and food and have a roof over their heads. “We’ll keep doing this through the winter - playing the game, going from building to building and challenging orders.”

 

 

 

Homeless pitch tents on Market Street after claiming they were ‘kicked out’ of hub in Gary Neville’s building

 

12:59, 22 OCT 2015

Manchester Evening News - BY KATIE BUTLER

 

The group said that activists in the Stock Exchange building on Norfolk Street would not let them back in - but campaigners say it is due to 'episodes of violence'

 

Homeless people have pitched tents on Market Street after claiming they were ‘kicked out’ of the homeless hub at the Stock Exchange. More than 10 people have set up camp on the busy shopping street and more people are expected to arrive later. Last week new Stock Exchange owner, former United footballer Gary Neville, was praised after saying homeless squatters who had taken over the building could stay there until next year . But some homeless people claim they are now being stopped from entering the property by the homeless activists who were given permission to use the building by Neville.

One of the group, Wesley Dove 30, says he is disgusted they are no longer allowed in the building and arrived on Market Street on Wednesday night.

 

The new camp set up on Market Street

 

He said: “We got kicked out on Tuesday. The homeless protesters told everyone to leave the building while safety checks were made.

"We were told to come back later that day and then they kept telling us later times. I went mad. It’s not right. "All of us homeless were outside while all of our stuff was in the building, blankets, clothes. And we were just stood in the pouring rain while ‘activists’ were in the building nice and dry. “It’s disgusting. They are getting deliveries of food . There are around ten activists in there with a select few homeless people. "Some of the homeless are now back out on the streets. I’ve had to turn homeless people away from us here on Market Street because there literally was not enough space here. "There was one woman who had to sleep in a doorway all night with no blanket.

 

Inside the Stock Exchange

 

“I was buzzing after Gary Neville told us we could stay there. It was like a weight off my shoulders but now we are back to square one.” Wesley Hall, who is co-ordinating the homeless hub in the Stock Exchange, said they had no choice but to kick them out. He said: “There have been episodes of violence and we cannot have that in the same building as vulnerable people.” Police were called to the building on Tuesday night after a window was broken, and reports of people trying to force entry.

 

He added that security measures were being put in place to ensure the safety of those in the building. City centre chief councillor Pat Karney said the whole homeless cause has been turned into a ‘pantomime’. He said: “From day one our town hall team have offered and spoken to every homeless person in the city centre. They are now in danger of losing public support for the cause by turning it into some sort of pantomime all around the city centre.”

He said he will speak to Gary Neville about the matter. Coun Karney: “There are no toilets or washing facilities on Market Street so we will be moving quickly to get these tents removed.”

 

 

Homeless rights activists occupy empty city centre office block and vow to help rough sleepers

 

15:53, 7 OCT 2015

Manchester Evening News - BY ALEX HIBBERT

 

Campaigners have said they will remain in the vacant office block on Charlotte Street for 'months' after taking it over last night

 

Homeless activists have promised to set up a ‘community hub’ for rough sleepers after occupying an empty building in Manchester city centre. The homeless rights campaigners have vowed to remain in the vacant office block on Charlotte Street for ‘months’ after taking it over last night. They say they are occupying the building to set up a hub where homeless people can go to get food, shelter and help to find accommodation and work. Claiming the legal right to occupy the building under squatter’s rights, they say they have been forced to act as the council are not doing enough for the city’s homeless.

 

They also claim that members of the fire service have been to the building to assess that it is safe for them to stay in. Wesley Hall, one of the activists who was also behind the Piccadilly Gardens recent protest rave, told the M.E.N. today: “We got in last night but there’s been squatters here for some time.

 

“At the moment we’re clearing and cleaning the building to get it ready to act as a hub for Manchester’s homeless. We will be providing them with somewhere where they can get food, a safe place to sleep and hopefully we can work to find people long-term accommodation and jobs. “As a non-residential property we have the legal right to squat here and we have served papers to the police and council telling them that. “No one is going to damage the building and we’re not doing any building work, playing loud music. We will not tolerate any drugs or criminal behaviour. “Obviously this is not a long-term solution but we will be here for at least a month or two.” Wesley also says that the council have failed to deliver a strategy to help homeless people that it said it would have completed by October. But the council maintain that they are engaging with homeless people and are working to develop a strategy around homelessness in the city, and that it remains committed to addressing the needs of homeless people in the city. It says many activists aren’t themselves homeless - and are making it more difficult for the council to deal with homelessness. A Manchester City Council spokesman said: "We are aware that a small group of protesters have occupied a private building in the city centre. We have been in contact with the building's owners and with the fire service, who are ensuring that people inside the building do not pose a risk to themselves or to any neighbouring buildings. A GMP spokesman said they were aware of the occupation and were monitoring the situation.

 

 

 

 

 

Bailiffs evict rough sleepers from The Ark shelter on Oxford Road for second time

 

12:50, 20 OCT 2015

Manchester Evening News - BY ALEX HIBBERT

 

High court bailiffs started to dismantle the camp at around 7am after university bosses were granted a possession order for the land at a court hearing last Tuesday

 

Rough sleepers at Oxford Road’s homeless shelter The Ark were evicted by Manchester Metropolitan University for a second time this morning. High court bailiffs started to dismantle the camp at around 7am after university bosses were granted a possession order for the land at a court hearing last Tuesday. Around a dozen people had been camped on where The Ark’s occupants resettled just metres from where the ‘self serving community’ was originally built a few months ago. Camp members had clashed with bailiffs and officers while being removed from the first camp last month.

 

During today’s eviction Ryan Mcphee, who first set up The Ark, was arrested on suspicion of breaching the peace. A number of homeless people camped on the opposite side of Oxford Road – on land owner by property firm Bruntwood – were also evicted. Bailiffs were seen throwing sleeping bags and tents into the back of a waiting disposal truck. Other possessions were kept by MMU and were being held behind fencing erected where The Ark had been based. Aaron Rigby, a former member of the Oxford Road camps who received accommodation from the council after being on the streets for nine weeks, said: “It’s disgusting what MMU have done, coming to evict and giving people no prior warning. They were throwing people’s possessions away – some of these things are the only thing they own. “I have been on the streets on and off for the last few years after going to prison and losing my house, it’s not easy living on the streets. “But the council are trying to get people into accommodation now, they are doing better. I think it’s taken these camps to make them act.”

 

A spokesperson for MMU said that all of the possessions kept by staff would be available for the homeless owner’s to collect for seven days. They said: “Following last week’s court action, this morning we took possession of the land adjacent to John Dalton, which had been occupied for a number of weeks. “Throughout this period, we have worked closely with Manchester Council’s homelessness team to support genuine cases of homelessness. “This morning, all members of the camps were given adequate time to remove their personal possessions, and larger items have been safely secured for retrieval within seven days. “We will continue our work with both the Council and related charities in the city. And the council said that any possessions thrown away was done with the blessing of the camp’s members. A Manchester Council spokesman said: "Manchester Metropolitan University enforced a possession order for land covering a camp on Oxford Road this morning. "Members of our homelessness unit were on hand and two people at the site accepted accommodation offers, while a further group of 10 people from the site were taken to the Cornerstone outreach centre where our staff are engaging with them and offering support and advice." Angela Shannon, a senior support worker at Cornerstone in Salford, said: “Ten homeless came in three taxis. They’re now getting fed breakfast, hot drinks and assessed by two council officers. “Here at Cornerstone we look after a range of vulnerable people, and wouldn’t be able to keep going without our amazing volunteers.”

 

 

Not your average homeless hostel: inside Neville and Giggs' hotel of hope

 

Ex-Manchester United players are letting homeless people stay at £1.5m property for winter. Given a first tour, the Guardian encounters optimism and conflict

 

07.00, 28 October 2015

The Guardian – By DIANE TAYLOR

 

With its spectacular domed ceiling, marble columns and sweeping red-carpeted staircase, Manchester’s former stock exchange has little in common with most homeless hostels. The building that the former Manchester United players Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville are planning to convert into a boutique hotel is all Edwardian baroque-style architecture, mosaic floors and polished dark wood.

But it is currently home to 15 homeless people – with that number expected to rise – who are overjoyed that Giggs and Neville have given them permission to spend the winter there.

The media were initially not invited inside, but the Guardian was this week given the first tour of the repurposed building, and permitted to film this video. One of the residents, a 54-year-old white-bearded man whose nickname is Granddad, said: “This is such an amazing building. We can’t believe that Gary Neville is letting us stay somewhere that’s going to become a luxury boutique hotel.”

Activists and homeless people in the building, which dates from 1907, say that the support from Neville and his family – who visit frequently – has been exceptional, for both individuals and the project overall.

 

Manchester Angels, an activist group, occupied the former stock exchange building 10 days ago. They hoped to provide both temporary shelter for homeless people and make a public statement about the homelessness crisis in the city, assuming they would be able to remain for just a few days before being evicted.

Instead Neville spoke to one of the lead activists, Wesley Hall, and told him everyone could stay over the winter as long as there was no damage to the 23,000 sq ft building, which was purchased in 2013 for £1.5m and is destined to become a luxury hotel with basement gym, spa and rooftop terrace.

Inside there was a hive of activity. The footballers’ decision triggered an enormous wave of goodwill and donations of food, clothing, bedding and bicycles poured in. Housing groups and mental health organisations have also offered to support the homeless residents.

 

Many of the homeless residents, as well as those still on the streets, are vulnerable and volatile. Their needs are complex and their behaviour can be challenging. Activists see the hotel as a staging post rather than a long-term way to tackle the problems of homeless people, and hope to refer people on to specialist support services.

Nathan Newman, who is helping out with PR and social media, said: “What matters is the people who are living here. This project could be the start of a different way of tackling the problem of homelessness.”

 

He added that one of the aims of the project was to raise awareness. “When we walk past individuals in the street who are sleeping in doorways, why are we not asking ourselves why that person is sleeping on the streets. Is it normal to walk past someone curled up in a doorway? Is it normal not to want to help them?”

But while the footballers’ gesture prompted headlines and euphoria among homeless people and activists, there have also been problems, with conflict and acrimony surfacing.

Hall, 33, has been a controversial figure, with a string of convictions for crimes including assault, racially aggravated damage and battery that were the focus of criticism from some sections of the media. Some of the city centre’s rough sleepers expressed anger at Hall and said they have been barred from the hotel. Some set up a tented camp just yards away from the hotel in the main shopping area.

On Tuesday it emerged that Hall – who insists he is not a racist, and admits he has made mistakes in his past – will step back from the project. A spokesman said: “A group of homeless people, activists and professionals are now working to ensure the long-term success of this project. Wesley Hall is stepping to the side. He has done a great job. We are working on pulling all the different groups together to ensure that we are all moving in the same direction to support homeless people.”

It is understood that Neville has been in touch with some of the homeless people sleeping outside. It is likely that more will be invited to sleep inside.

 

But while the personal disagreements have been playing out, street homelessness in Manchester’s city centre continues to increase. Critics of the government’s austerity agenda say that housing, mental health support and drug services have been severely reduced, casting adrift the most vulnerable in society.

According to Manchester city council, when a street homeless headcount was conducted last November, 47 people were observed sleeping rough – double the previous year’s figure. Rough sleepers themselves estimate that at least 100 people are currently spending their nights outside.

The council is developing a homeless charter and said it is working with a variety of other organisations including charities and faith groups to try to improve the situation.

 

Hall claimed that he banned some homeless people from the hotel because they behaved violently while withdrawing from the synthetic drug Spice, which has wreaked havoc in the city’s homeless community. Drug workers say the substance is highly addictive and that withdrawal symptoms can be physically as severe as those from heroin, and psychologically as bad as those from crack.

The occupation of the building followed months of protests about the crisis in affordable, temporary accommodation available in the city, especially for single adults. The actions began when a protest camp was set up outside Manchester town hall in April, and subsequently moved to several other locations following evictions.

Some of the new residents were mopping the floor and cleaning the toilets, others were sorting out the mountain of donated clothing. The large room with the domed ceiling is being used as a dining room and lounge. A few mismatched chairs were placed around a table in the centre while a few people relaxed on battered sofas in one corner of the room.

There is a small library with a variety of books including C S Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia and Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. Some of Neville’s staff delivered a steaming vat of minestrone soup. The giant dining room is chilly and everyone was keen to get something warm inside them.

 

Grace, 17, who was diagnosed with autism three years ago, is one of those living at the former stock exchange. Like others she has had a problem with Spice but said she managed not to use the drug – which made her violent and paranoid – for the last two weeks.

“I feel like I am holding everything in but need to have a safe place to live,” she said. “Society is too hard and too stressful when you don’t fit in. I don’t like houses but dream of living in a converted double decker bus where everyone would be welcome to come and stay.”

Ricky, 29, another resident, also said he was off Spice for a couple of weeks. He said his drug problems started when his older brother died of an overdose when he was 18.

 

“You can buy Spice for as little as £5 from lots of newsagents round here. It blocked out all my problems but when I was withdrawing from it I got the shakes, sweats and was sick,” he said.

“I know there have been divisions between different groups of homeless people over this hotel but we all need to stick together. We need to get some proper help and support. I’ve got a lot of respect for Gary Neville for saying we can stay here until February.”

A few hundred yards away from the hotel other rough sleepers have pitched up in a mini-tent city, or have been camping in doorways in the main pedestrianised shopping area.

Ben, 26, said he does not drink, smoke or take drugs and is on a very long waiting list for a council property. He has frequently been ill with tonsillitis and chest infections, he said, and needs permanent accommodation to find work again as a painter and decorator.

He added that while he believes in God, his faith has been severely tested on the streets.

Back in the hotel, Ricky was more optimistic. “This place is a mansion, everyone would love to live in a building like this,” he said. “It’s a dream come true. I wake up every morning and as long as I don’t break any rules I can be a free person here.”

 

 

Police release pictures of homeless man found dead in burning tent

 

Daniel Smith suffered multiple injuries and was found under railway arches near Salford Central station in Greater Manchester

 

18.35, 22 JAN 2016

The Guardian – By CAROLINE DAVIES

 

Police investigating the murder of a homeless man whose body was found in a burning tent have released pictures of him as flowers and tributes were laid at the scene in Greater Manchester.

Daniel Smith, 23, was found at 1.20am on Wednesday under railway arches in Ordsall, near Salford Central station. He had suffered multiple injuries and his tent had been deliberately set on fire, detectives said.

Originally from Ashton-under-Lyne, he is understood to have been attacked before the fire was started.

A banner, flowers and candles were placed at the site under railway arches at Irwell Street. The banner read: “RIP Daniel, gone but not forgotten”. Another personal message read: “Nuff love bro, hold it tight up there”.

 

A Home Office postmortem concluded that he died from multiple injuries. Specialist officers are providing support to his family.

Smith is understood to have been sleeping rough in Manchester for around two years. Ch Supt Mary Doyle of Greater Manchester police said members of the homeless community could hold the key to the investigation.

She told the Manchester Evening News: “They are concerned, worried and upset. And we are continuing to work with them, to support and safeguard them. But some may have seen something that was important. GMP and our partner agencies have links with the community and we are working with them to keep their confidence and encourage them to come forward.

“We can’t yet establish a motive, so we can’t say there is no wider risk to the community. The location is overlooked. It is a busy area, even at the time of night Daniel was found. We hope someone has seen something.”

 

Doyle, head of police in Salford, said inquiries over 24 hours after his death found he had suffered a number of injuries before his body was discovered in a tent following a fire.

Police have been carrying out a joint investigation with the fire service to establish the cause of the fire which they now believe was started deliberately.

 

DC Derek Nellany said: “We are continuing to work closely with Daniel’s family to try to find out exactly what happened to him. Having been to see them today, they are understandably devastated and our thoughts continue to be with them at this tough time.”

The area around the crime scene, just outside Manchester city centre, is widely covered by CCTV, which detectives will examine. The secluded railway arches are used by homeless people to shelter from the cold weather.

 

 

 

Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs' 'Homeless hotel' closes as former Manchester United players begin refurbishment

 

The new residents kept the building clean and tidy and Neville provided food and security staff at an estimated cost of £150,000

 

29 JAN 2016

The Independent – By IAN JOHNSON

 

Homeless people who had been living rent-free in a Manchester hotel owned by former Manchester United stars Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs for more than three months have left the building.

A group of squatters and activists called the Manchester Angels occupied the former Stock Exchange building in October ahead of planned refurbishment work. Rather than evict them, Neville and Giggs decided they could stay for a few months.

The new residents kept the building clean and tidy and Neville provided food and security staff at an estimated cost of £150,000, The Guardian reported.

Nathan Newman, a volunteer at the building, told the paper: “That first night when all the homeless people in Manchester heard that Gary Neville was opening up his hotel to them every single person’s face changed from miserable and downcast to pure elation.

“They knew that someone cared enough about them to do a thing like this and that meant a lot to them. There was a real surge of energy and optimism.”

An Iranian asylum seeker called Ash said as he prepared to leave: “I have been getting panicked in the last couple of days about what is going to happen to me now. I have been able to sleep safely for the last three months because the security people are here.

“When you are sleeping rough every noise scares you and wakes you up. I got into a routine of waking up every morning, going down to the kitchen for breakfast and having a chat with the security people. It was like living in a big family. I’m really going to miss all that.

“But I have some really good people in my life now that weren’t there before, like Rob, the head of security. He used to buy us all coffee and cake every day. The stock exchange has been a lucky place for me.”

Another resident, Wesley Dove, praised Neville for allowing them to stay, but described a bleak future.

“The council opened up two night shelters but they will close in March. So many people will just be back on the streets. Some new squats have opened up in the city centre but they are dangerous places. The hostels are not good places,” he said.

“We need some real solutions to homelessness.”

 

 

 

 

Should homeless people be given tents?

 

28 APR 2016

BBC News Magazine - By JUSTIN PARKINSON

 

Cheap, easy-to-assemble tents are being used to shelter those on the streets, with some charities and campaign groups encouraging donations. But in some places, authorities are clamping down on homeless camps.

 

"Loads of people on the streets swear by tents," says Steve, 27, who has been a rough sleeper since the age of 14. "I mean, they give you a bit of extra warmth, so it's a lot easier to stay out in the open than it is if you're just using a sleeping bag."

The average age of death for a rough sleeper in England is just 47. Bad weather and fear of attack make life difficult and uncertain.

Anecdotally, it appears it's becoming more common for homeless people to seek some shelter and degree of privacy in tents.

While they "cannot begin to provide an adequate substitute for the roof, every person deserves over their head, any advantage a rough sleeper has against the elements could be the difference between life and death", says Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the homelessness charity Crisis.It's become easier to pitch a tent. Instant or pop-up versions allow people to set up their overnight accommodation in just a few seconds. They are light and fold up into near-flat containers, with basic models retailing in the UK for less than £20.

There's been a strong drive to provide more of these tents in the US, where the government estimates that more than 500,000 people are homeless.

The charity Tents-4-Homeless was set up in Los Angeles to encourage the public to donate tents and money to supply them. These "at least provide temporary protection against inclement weather and provide a small measure of dignity and privacy", says founder and director Peter Schey.

Without the construction of "several hundred thousand new housing units", the situation will not ease, he argues, adding: "Until then, more and more homeless people will have no option other than to live in tents lining the streets of the richest nation on earth."

About 20 tents are currently standing on a plot of land next to London Road in Manchester. The camp is the successor of several others in the city that have been disbanded or moved on since the first started outside the town hall in April last year as part of an anti-austerity protest.

"The use of tents by homeless people is a recent thing," says solicitor Ben Taylor, who has represented those involved in the camps during their disputes with Manchester City Council.

 

"There are loads more than there used to be," says Steve, who did not want to give his surname. He sleeps out in central London, having moved to the UK from Ireland. "People feel a bit safer in a tent. After all, it's harder to hurt someone by jumping on a tent than it is out in the open. Some people have been a bit stupid with where they're putting their tents and they get moved on, but most use their brains."

The number of rough sleepers in England increased by 30% from 2014 to 2015, according to official figures. Many of those living outdoors in towns and cities have addictions and mental health problems.

But not everyone thinks tents are a solution. Several camps formed in Manchester have been moved on over the past year, and the city's council has won an injunction against the pitching of tents on land it owns.

Bristol Council has warned that charities and organisations urging the donation of tents to rough sleepers are encouraging anti-social behaviour and might be delaying those in need from seeking help.

 

"I've worked with homeless people for 20 years and I've never seen large-scale use of tents until last year. Before, people tended to sleep under a bridge or in a driveway or on a park bench. Spots next to air vents were popular too."

At points during the encampments, organisations appealed via Facebook for the public to donate tents - a smaller-scale version of what Tents-4-Homeless is doing in the US.

This provoked widespread "sympathy and empathy", says Taylor, with some people buying tents, as well as jumpers, blankets and underwear, from nearby shops and bringing them to the camp.

"There's a practical reason," he says. "If you are sleeping in a tent and there are five other tents next to it, you are less likely to get beaten up. The problem is that people coming out of nightclubs sometimes kick people.

"If there are a few of you in tents, you can leave your stuff inside and go to the loo or a shop and someone can keep an eye on it for you. If you leave it out on the street, then it's gone. With tents there's a bit more of a community situation going on."

A sizeable proportion of the early Manchester tent-dwellers was made up of activists, rather than the genuinely homeless, says Taylor, but the London Road camp is "100% homeless".

 

In Bristol, the council has threatened to remove tents erected by rough sleepers in sites including Castle Park and St James Park.

Nick Hooper, the council's director of housing solutions and crime reduction, has said some of those involved "start causing nuisance, anti-social behaviour, littering". The authority warns that the use of tents could make it harder for charities and others looking to help the most needy.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has said that even the organisation's own family tents, made to a higher specification than the most basic models, "are designed as a short-term shelter solution, particularly in support to emergency situations" and are "not a substitute for a more permanent shelter".

One city where tents' use by the homeless has proved particularly controversial over a long period is Paris. In January 1954, Catholic priest and former MP Henri-Antoine Groues, better known as Abbe Pierre, launched an appeal for help after a homeless couple and a homeless single woman died of hypothermia.

 

He sent an open letter to newspapers, saying: "Everyone can help those who are homeless. We need - tonight and, at the latest, tomorrow - 5,000 blankets, 300 big American tents, and 200 catalytic stoves."

The appeal succeeded and Abbe Pierre had tents erected on the quays of the river Seine, partly a practical measure and partly for the propaganda effect.

In 1956, a government minister said those involved should "go sleep under the bridges" of Paris instead, hidden from wider public view.

Fifty years later, in 2006, another camp grew by the Saint-Martin canal in north-east Paris, the tents bearing the initials SDF, standing for "sans domicile fixe" ("without a fixed abode"). A group called the Children of Don Quixote set up around 100 tents, inviting people to come and spend time with the residents. The camp lasted for three months. An attempt to build a successor in December 2007 was stopped by police.

 

The current Manchester camp is on ground owned by Manchester University, which says it has made "clear that we have not consented to this use of this land" and "reserves all rights to take appropriate steps to require vacation of the land".

But it adds that it is a "large and inclusive institution, with a clear commitment to social responsibility".

"We'll have to see what happens," says Steve, "but I know that until things get a lot better there'll be a lot of people using tents."