A look at Manchester’s innovative new ways of fighting homelessness as crisis now affects one in 135

With winter set in and snow on its way, we must remember what the cold months ahead hold for the many people experiencing homelessness across Greater Manchester.

In the face of the ever-increasing number of people sleeping rough across the region, this year Manchester has found some innovative ways of trying to tackle the many issues around homelessness, and this is set to continue into 2019.

New figures from Shelter have revealed that over 10,500 people in the North West are currently experiencing homelessness.

The charity have mapped the five areas with the highest levels of homelessness and Manchester has topped the list with one in 135 people homeless, sleeping rough or stuck in temporary accommodation.

The true extent of the crisis might still be unknown, but the last few months have seen some impressive projects taking steps in the right directions.

Andy Burnham’s A Bed Every Night scheme has started making a promising difference to the lives of many rough sleepers, with a total of 278 people helped off the streets in the first month of the project.

Due to a combination of unaffordable rents, frozen housing benefits and a shortage of social housing, almost 320,000 people across Britain are now homeless, an increase of 13,000 people since last year, and it is some of the country’s most vulnerable people who will be without a roof over their head this winter.

But, according to Andy Burnham, the generosity of the people of Greater Manchester is starting to make a promising dent in the crisis, as both the number of beds available and the variety of support offered continues to grow.

“The system is in place now and we will continue to build. People are being helped off the streets, out of harm’s way and into safe and secure accommodation. And, most importantly, lives are being saved” said the Mayor of Greater Manchester.

Over £147,000 has already been pledged to the Mayor’s Homelessness Fund which will be solely dedicated to A Bed Every Night until the end of the scheme in March.

Another new way that Manchester has come together to confront these rising figures is through the cities involvement with The Museum of Homelessness.

Driven by using lived experiences of homelessness and run completely by volunteers, MoH collates and shares stories from people who have either experienced or worked with homelessness.

They do research, run events and curate exhibitions that force the public to consider how they view homelessness and the people living within this crisis.

“We are trying to start a different sort of conversation about homelessness and the inequalities behind it,” said Matt Turtle, co-founder of MoH.

They have worked in Manchester over the last year and plan to return with more events in 2019.

He added: “Manchester is different to other cities, there are a lot of different groups that intersect and they talk to each other. It feels like an important place for us to be and for us to work in order to have this conversation.”

MoH uses the power of storytelling to stimulate conversations that we need to be having for any real reform to take place.

“People often think they can’t help – our events help people cross that threshold,” said Matt.

With the arrival of the cold weather and with escalating homelessness more visible than ever, many of us start wondering how we can help this winter.

Schemes like A Bed Every Night and communities like MoH remind us there are many ways for us to help. It’s not just about donating what you can, but about getting informed and getting involved this winter.

*Image courtesy of The Museum of Homelessness, with thanks.

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