Today marks the start of Andy Burnham’s flagship ‘A Bed Every Night’ initiative which promises that the rough sleeping population of Manchester will have access to a bed as the cold winter months roll in.
The scheme intends to provide the homeless population with habitable accommodation at night to keep them safe from fatal temperatures which have already led to two recorded deaths in the previous weekend.
It has three main sources of funding to operate: The Mayor’s Homelessness Fund which has so far raised over £125,000; Tackle4MCR which has funneled £1m through the donations of Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany and, finally, Big Change Manchester (Real Change Manchester in some boroughs) which is open to donations from the public.
Housing provisions will also be supported through the Social Impact Bond (SIB) which is the Mayor’s innovative program that involves a partnership between 15 housing providers and charities.
The Mayor announced that more than 130 people have found secure accommodation through SIB which Burnham claims has been a real success.
Alongside SIB, provisions will also come from Housing First, a program that will directly send rough sleepers into their own accommodation, giving them the privilege of having a home address which is often a huge problem for homeless people trying to find work.
The Mayor has stated on his blog: “The first contracts are currently out to tender and we hope to let them in December.”
Another innovation alongside this scheme is the involvement of Lloyds Bank, who have agreed to help the homeless by already opening bank accounts for 30 people, another issue facing homeless people trying to find work.
The Market Street branch of Lloyds is also encouraging its customers to support the charity Barnabus, a local charity that offers accommodation and social support for the homeless.
The mayor welcomed the involvement of private businesses and banks in the scheme.
“[Homelessness] cannot be solved through public money alone.”
He mentioned there was a funding gap of approximately £2m which he is confident of being able to cover.
And even expressed that they want more and will aim to create what he calls a central drive for all the money; however, he was hesitant to explain what such a central drive would consist of beyond SIB and Housing First.
Burnham said: “We are going to set ourselves the goal of ending rough sleeping here over the coming winter.”
For members of the public that want to get involved in ending homelessness in Manchester, you can do so through the Street Support App, which the mayor claimed is more valuable than giving money.
Through the app, members of the public refer rough sleepers to the local police and also find information on local support groups and emergency information.
The Bed Every Night scheme, which has been described by Burnham as a ‘big commitment’ is set to last until March 31.
The scheme’s start comes aside the troubling news that the government does not officially count death statistics among the homeless.
On his blog, Burnham has expressed that Greater Manchester will be at the forefront of investigating, and more importantly, learning from homeless deaths which are more likely to happen in the winter due to potential freezing temperatures.
Burnham has also asked those who may be sceptical of the scheme to give him the benefit of the doubt and that this is the first stage into what could become a real difference.
The mayor has stressed the freshness of this scheme and that it’s the first of its kind in this city, he claimed it will ‘prove a new way of doing things’.
The philosophy of the scheme is based on what Burnham calls his ‘4R strategy’: Reduction, Respite, Recover and Reconnection.
While there are many holes to poke in this scheme, it is important to remember that something like this has never been done before in such a form in Manchester, a representative admitting that ‘it won’t be perfect on day one’.
With such an ambitious scheme as this, the only thing critics can do at this time is see how things unfold in the coming months.