Remembering Debi Blanshard

By Greater Manchester Housing Action


Last month we were sad to share the news of the death of one of core members, Debi Blanchard. She was at the heart of everything we did and a true champion for the marginalised in our city. Below we publish a selection of tributes from GMHA members past and present.



Manchester has lost one of our most determined and ambitious housing activists. Grateful I could still go visit her and tell her news from Manchester's squat scene, she would light up and be full of joy for the community of squatters she loved and held close. On my last visit to see Debi, after a demo outside the Social Housing Awards, I left her with a placard "We want community led homes!", so she knew that we're still going to demand housing justice and community-led solutions. 

She gave so much love to everyone, leaving those who knew her heartbroken by this news. She was on the ground daily, finding people where they were and supporting them to get where they wanted to be. Debi had a lot of joy and love to share with people impacted by this on-going housing crisis. 

She knew how to channel her anger at Manchester's failing homeless policies and the politicians who use 'ending homelessness' for their own gain. She spoke out against the corruption of Manchester City Council, standing up for young homeless people in the town hall and at council meetings, gathering insights and FOI's to hold those in power to account, building evidence cases to take to the housing ombudsman.

Somehow, she also made time in her days to bring food and supplies to the squat. Debi influenced my life in profound ways. She will always hold space in my heart.

Living everyday like a land pirate ready to fight for those who have nothing, a beacon of mutual aid who knew that we all benefit from sharing resources and advocating for each others rights.

Debi held a wealth of knowledge on legal and housing rights, she was on a mission to get young people housed and would be a champion for anyone who would accept her offer of support and solidarity.

She knew that the homeless industrial complex was failing so many, and of the risks young people in particular face, not only through rough sleeping, but also within hostels and temporary accommodation. Debi knew change needs to come from the bottom up, and did her best to create an environment where people harness their power to make this happen. 

She set up Youthouse Housing Co-op with young people with lived experience of homelessness to create long term secure housing. Her legacy lives on with those who she brought together to design and build a housing future for Manchester's most marginalised.

"Housing by any means necessary" Debi, Youthouse Founder.


Debi with members of Youthouse, the organisation she set up.



I don’t think I’ve ever met someone so devoted to helping others as Debi. I feel like half of Manchester owe her a debt of gratitude for something and there are a fair few who quaked in her boots whenever she was around, bringing to bear such a depth of knowledge on housing rights and such a fire to stand up to those that undermined them. Abiding memories of Debi are her chasing a terrified Burnham, wagging her finger; the enduring battle against her nemesis ‘Tricky Dicky’ and just an immeasurable sense of warmth, joy and hope from her. Rest in solidarity Debi, you will be so so so missed.



Debi was one of the biggest forces of nature I have ever met. A truly selfless person with an insane amount of care, knowledge and passion to fight for the rights and safety of young homeless people. She taught me so much. Debi was one of those people that touched everyone's lives and inspired them to take action and fight for those who needed it the most. Volunteering with her at GMHA was an experience I will be forever grateful for. Rest in power Debi, you megababe.



Debi was an incredible activist and fought with her every breath to make lives better for homeless people, disabled people and others being denied dignity in our crumbling state.

It was a privilege to work alongside her on housing campaigns, and I always loved the fire in her spirit. She will be sorely missed, and deserves a heroic send-off to honour her compassion and dedication to the cause. Rest in power Debs x



Debi was an indispensable member of GMHA. She brought humour and optimism to our meetings, as well as insider knowledge from the homelessness sector; news and facts from the streets; and the outputs of her tireless research and analysis - she was the Queen of FOI requests! Her drive for justice and action on youth homelessness made her a great networker, and she brought decision makers together and forced important conversations that would not have taken place without her determination. She was truly dedicated to the young people she met and nurtured, empowering them to organise, dream and find practical solutions. It was a privilege to know Debi and see how she used her life in service of others, with such open-heartedness and generosity.



Debi was a powerful force for good in Manchester and a central figure in the city’s housing movement. She dedicated herself to standing up for the rights of the disadvantaged, disenfranchised and dispossessed. Debi always approached her activism with great energy, determination, and, of course, a wicked sense of humour. She is an inspiration to us all. 

Rest in Power Debi! 



Debi was utterly inspirational and fearless as a fighter for the working class. Whether sticking up for young homeless people or holding those in power to account, she never gave in and lived a life that was dedicated to helping others. She had a righteous anger against people who profited from the misery caused by Greater Manchester's shameful housing crisis, but a kindness and brilliant sense of humour that always brightened my day. She will be sorely missed and is an example for us all to follow. 


Debi in the middle of the movement — at our event "Housing Vision 2020" mere days before Covid-19



For several years in the late 2010s Greater Manchester Housing Action went toe to toe with some of the most powerful people in our city — and sometimes got the better of them. Some even described us as “the official opposition”. It is not an exaggeration to say that the waves we made would have been impossible without Debi’s militancy, humanity and fearless refusal to bow to the powerful. Characteristic of her was her many arrivals at one of our meetings with a heavy folder of documents — usually exposing some corruption or misdeed within the housing system, which she knew so well. She always said we “punched above our weight” and was at the core of everything we did. A powerful advocate for the most marginalised in our city, she was a huge inspiration to us all. She was someone who really mattered. Debi will be deeply missed.



Debi was a fighter for a better city and a better world. She had so much love for those she cared for, supported and offered solidarity to. Above all she was passionate to make things better for those that needed it most. She also had anger for those that seemed to be happy with the status quo.  Never awed or silenced by fancy suits and fancy titles Debi offered a critique that was highly informed by everyday experiences but also a forensic knowledge of housing procedures, organisations, flows of finance etc. I’m not sure I’ve met anyone who had such expertise of housing issues in Manchester, certainly no one that gave so much to the struggle. I will miss Debi like many others, she inspired me, made me laugh with her take downs of the rich and powerful and above all gave me hope that things will get better if we all keep fighting.



In 2015 I met Debi & everything changed for GMHA. It was a galvanising moment as she and many others joined forces to challenge the corrupt status quo and demand real change for all renters and social housing residents.

Debi was the most tenacious campaigner with the biggest heart. Her presence epitomised “knowledge is power” which she wielded with a courage I’ve never seen in another activist before or since.

Small in stature and a mighty force of nature, Debi knew no fear and would routinely wipe the floor with Manchester’s political elite- in the name of equity & housing access for all. 

With lived experience and professional knowledge of housing injustice, Debi was the proverbial David facing down the Goliath. GMHA and all who created this movement in Manchester owe a debt of thanks to Debi. 

Debi, your legacy and inspiration remain & we will miss you. Rest in power x x x 



Debi was a force to be reckoned with. Her commitment to housing justice has had a profound and lasting impact upon Manchester. Alongside her campaigning she fought tirelessly to house young people, when other services had let them down - Debi was there to work with them to offer them stability and care. 

Debi weaved their experiences through her campaigning, matching it with an encyclopedic knowledge of the housing system and it's oppressive functions. Debi shaped my approach to campaigning and organising so much, and I'm sure her fire burns on in so many she fought alongside. Debi was an absolute joy to fight alongside - forever making us laugh and always extending such radical kindness to everyone. Her legacy and inspiration lives on. Rest in power Debi!


Her funeral donation raised funds for the grassroots homelessness charity Lifeshare. If you wish to make a donation and support their work, please head to their website here.


19 February 2024