By Persons Unknown, MCR
During December 2018, there were four deaths on the streets of Manchester, and Persons Unknown MCR believe that more deaths go undocumented each month. In response, they occupied an empty building on Market Street to demand the Council be proactive with a Winter Homelessness Plan (WHP). Whilst homelessness isn’t winter specific, this time of year is detrimental to the lives of rough sleepers.
Support the campaign, share and sign the petition here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/where-is-manchester-s-winter-homelessness-plan
“This campaign is to highlight Manchester City Council’s accountability for the city’s homelessness crisis. The general public cannot change how many people become homeless, no matter how much money they donate to Andy Burnham’s Homelessness Fund. Nor can the public affect what happens to rough sleepers when they have nowhere else to go.
We have a list of interlinked demands that we believe will help prevent homelessness on the streets of Manchester. All we ask is that the Council treat these people with humanity.
OUR CAMPAIGN DEMANDS:
- A COMPREHENSIVE WINTER HOMELESSNESS PLAN TO PREVENT DEATH BY ROUGH SLEEPING. THIS SHOULD BE ACTIVATED WHEN THE TEMPERATURE DROPS TO ZERO, AND SHOULD HOLD UNTIL THE END OF FEBRUARY.
The Manchester Winter Homelessness Plan (WHP) should build on and go beyond the national SWEP (Severe Weather Emergency Provision). Whilst SWEP only mandates provision of accommodation when temperatures drop to zero, we want to see a WHP that is active throughout the winter period. The WHP must not discriminate against rough sleepers based on whether they have a local connection to the borough they are seeking shelter in, nor refuse people access based on their immigration status, unlike the Andy Burnham ‘A Bed Every Night’ scheme.
We believe that only the local authority has the power to engage the services and premises necessary to put such a comprehensive local plan into action. The provision should be funded by the Council, not by individual charitable donors.
- THAT ALL EVICTIONS ACROSS GREATER MANCHESTER CEASE FOR THE WINTER PERIOD TO AVOID ANY FAMILY OR PERSONS BECOMING HOMELESS DURING WINTER.
Across Europe, policies which pause evictions during the winter months have been effective in ensuring that people and families are safe whilst they secure their next accommodation. The same is needed in Manchester. This demand is inspired by international responses to the global housing crisis, where successful policy changes have improved the lives of local people.
- FOR EMPTY, UNUSED BUILDINGS TO BE IMMEDIATELY OPENED, ADAPTED AND EQUIPPED AS WINTER NIGHT SHELTERS AND DAY CENTRES FOR ALL OF MANCHESTER'S STREET HOMELESS.
Over the last 4 years, squatters have sustained an active community in Manchester by opening empty buildings to create homes and spaces for people to support each other. Manchester City Council owns many suitable empty properties, both residential and non-residential. We demand that they be used to accommodate rough sleepers, especially residential properties that can be redeveloped into solutions to the housing crisis. Our city has enough space to accommodate all of its rough sleepers. The Council should invest all year round in bringing disused buildings into use as rough sleeper accommodation for the following winter.
- THAT ACCURATE ESTIMATES OF MANCHESTER'S STREET HOMELESS POPULATION ARE MADE, SO THAT THE CAPACITY OF WINTER NIGHT SHELTERS CAN BE SET ACCORDINGLY.
Current methods of estimating the number of homeless people are known to be flawed. Local services and the NHS should input into count. Without a real figure, we are failing people who are hidden from statistics, and homelessness appears to be less of priority than it is.
- ACCESS TO WINTER NIGHT SHELTERS IS OPEN TO PEOPLE WHO ARE STREET HOMELESS VIA BOTH REFERRAL SYSTEMS AND SELF-REFERRAL.
Currently people are unable to report to a shelter without some kind of referral, leaving many to sleep on the streets. Mandatory taking of names and personal details should also be suspended to avoid discrimination.
- THAT THE WINTER HOMELESS SHELTERS ARE SAFE FROM POLICE WARRANT CHECKING OR HOME OFFICE IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS.
When a person does not have papers, or is scared to reveal their nationality, they face a barrier to accessing shelter and support as a homeless person. We believe that all people, as a basic human right, need access to shelter. Housing should come first, without fear of deportation or rejection based on discriminatory policies. This extends to rough sleepers who are not local, or cannot prove a connection to the area.
- THAT MANCHESTER CITY COUNCIL PUBLISHES ITS WINTER HOMELESSNESS PLAN, IN FULL, BY SEPTEMBER OF EACH YEAR, TO ALLOW FOR TRANSPARENCY, PUBLIC CONSULTATION AND ACCOUNTABILITY.
"Homelessness is everyone’s business. Let us try to get out of our individualised state of mind, let us try care about each other more. We have listed our demands, but all we want is a solution. We want to see council leaders publicly commit to a Winter Homelessness Plan that is proactive and preventative to ensure that next winter, no one will sleep rough on the streets of Manchester."
19 January 2019