Early last Thursday morning, I did my regular walk-about to check on the number of people sleeping rough in our city centre.
We have certainly made progress since my first in May 2017. But, while the number of people sleeping rough has fallen, it is still in high double figures rather than the three figures of two years ago.
So, as the Tories arrive in Manchester this week, and as they flit between their champagne receptions, I hope they will take a sobering look at the effect their policies have had on a proud Northern city like ours.
It’s not all bad news. They will see many cranes on our city skyline and soaring new skyscrapers. But beneath them, on our wet and cold streets, they will also find far too many lost souls with nowhere to go.
Since austerity began in 2010, the number of people forced to sleep on the streets has gone up by over 500% in Manchester.
Mancunians don’t just walk on by on the other side of the road. They have responded to this humanitarian crisis by giving generously. They have also rightly challenged me to do more.
Last November, I launched A Bed Every Night. Our aim is to give every person sleeping rough somewhere to go.
Tonight, around 300 people will be in our shelters across Greater Manchester. This level of support is not happening in any other UK city. Phase 2 of A Bed Every Night starts on Tuesday and will increase the number of beds available to over 400.
A Bed Every Night is working. Since it began, it has supported over 2000 people and 680 have moved from shelters to a fixed address. It is amazing to see people from all walks of life rallying round to support it. Manchester icons Vincent Kompany and Courteeners have thrown their weight behind it. I donate 15% of my salary every month to the fund.
I am determined to keep A Bed Every Night going. But it’s hard. We need the Government to step up and provide more help to cities like ours so we can put a roof over every head.
Last week, the Government’s own figures revealed that 19 of the 20 most deprived places in the UK are in the North of England. That is shameful.
Northern councils have been cut harder than others since austerity began. The human cost of that can be seen huddled in the doorways of not just Manchester but every other town across the North.
Maybe, just maybe, the Tories’ visit to Manchester this week will take them out of their Brexit bubble. Maybe last week’s appalling scenes in Parliament will bring a new tone, a new humility. Maybe the Prime Minister will stand up to deliver his speech and acknowledge the scale of the homelessness crisis cities like ours are facing. Maybe he will commit to giving Northern councils proper increases in funding for the coming years and the ability to build the many new council homes we need.
Maybe. But I am not holding my breath.
Article Published: 28/09/2019 19:33 PM