Homelessness across Greater Manchester has skyrocketing since 2010 and with years of relentless Tory austerity there is far less money to help try and deal with it. As a result, Bury Labour has been working to bring together the Council, partners in health, police and the fire service, third sector organisations, voluntary groups, faith communities and housing providers to work as one to help deal with this important issue.
Last week saw all the interested partners join together at the Town Hall to discuss the upcoming changes in Homelessness legislation, share ideas and best practice and hear about some of the innovative work that is already happening in Bury.
One such scheme in Bury is Homeless-Friendly, which began working with GPs to ensure people who are homeless get the healthcare they need and have a right to, despite their circumstances. Homeless-Friendly encourages organisations to lead the way in creating a cultural shift in how we view those without a permanent home and remind them they are a pivotal part of our society. It asks that we examine the way we conduct our business and pledge to become Homeless-Friendly. Any public, voluntary or private organisation can join in.
As part of the discussions, attendees were asked to map where services are provided - and where the gaps were in the current provision. As well as this, we wanted to know what was working well in each line of work and how we could build upon this.
Labour Councillor Eamonn O'Brien, who is the Cabinet Member for Finance and Housing, welcomed the partnership work saying: "Many people have said to me how shocked they are to see the huge number of rough sleepers around Greater Manchester, particularly in the City Centre of Manchester. But there is also a hidden element of homelessness that not many can see in this way.
Unfortunately, a growing number of families are having to be placed in temporary accommodation because there is a severe lack of affordable rented properties available. With Universal Credit on the horizon, we know that this will only get worse.
Unless the Government takes meaningful action to fix our broken housing market, which really only benefits landowners and property developers, not the poorest and most vulnerable, we will continue to see homelessness and rough sleeping increase.
Andy Burnham, Labour's Greater Manchester Mayor, has made eradicating homelessness his mission as Mayor and brought about a significant amount of investment into local provision. Under new plans, at least 200 of GM’s most entrenched rough sleepers will be given new homes, and the support needed to stay in them, after a £1.8m grant from an ethical investment fund.
The properties range from one-bedroom flats to shared houses and supported accommodation. Besides gaining the key to a new home, people will be offered “intensive support to sustain tenancies” as well as help with addiction and other health issues, plus training and employment services.