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What’s causing the spike in homelessness in the city?

Despite post-pandemic efforts, Manchester's homeless population has surged back to pre-COVID levels

You may have seen a proliferation of tents around City Hall and might be wondering why this is happening.

We spoke to Barnabus to get an update on Manchester’s homeless population, and what can be done to help.

Barnabus is a charity dedicated to supporting people experiencing homelessness.

They provide various services, including accommodation, food, clothing, and support for those in need.

Additionally, they work to raise awareness about homelessness and advocate for long-term solutions to address the issue

Speaking to the charity, it is clear that the homelessness situation in Manchester has taken a dire turn, with advocates and charity workers warning of a crisis on the horizon caused by ‘multiple factors’.

Barnabus charity

Barnabus staff at work

Yvonne Hope, the CEO of Barnabus homeless charity, paints a bleak picture of regression.

“Technically we are now at the end of the Coronavirus 19 pandemic after 4 years,” she notes, “and for homelessness organisations, it feels like we have found ourselves back where we started but somehow in an even worse position than March 2020.”

This is a stark contrast to the solidarity we saw during the height of the pandemic, particularly with the “Everyone In” initiative.

Yvonne added: “The government made the safety of people who were homeless a priority.

“No one could face allowing people to remain on the streets to face a potentially horrible death.”

Surging homelessness in Manchester

However, despite these efforts, the number of individuals facing street homelessness has surged back to pre-pandemic levels.

“Simply, the government’s pledge to reduce rough sleeping numbers has failed.”

She highlights the plight of asylum seekers and refugees, evicted with alarming swiftness and little recourse.

Alex Simpson, also of Barnabus, echoes these sentiments, identifying escalating living costs as a primary driver of homelessness

“The cost of living is going up, making it hard for many people to afford their homes.

“So much so that we are seeing demographics who would have never faced homelessness before pushed into a life on the streets.”

Alex illustrates the heartbreaking reality of individuals forced into homelessness, with some resorting to sleeping in cars.

Homeless asylum seekers

Alex explained the challenges faced by those seeking refuge in the UK, describing a labyrinthine process fraught with uncertainty.

“Another contributing factor is the recent push by the Home Office to clear the backlog of refugee and asylum seeker cases.

“The media has extensively covered the implications, particularly concerning temporary accommodation solutions like hotels and the notorious boat situation in Weymouth.

“When people do get permission to stay, they’re given a few weeks to find a job and a place to live,” Alex explained.

“It’s tough because they might not know how things work here, and they might not speak English well.

“A substantial number of individuals flock to Manchester seeking this opportunity, drawn by the perception of available support networks.

“However, the reality is starkly different.

“Many arrive in the UK with limited understanding of its systems and face insurmountable barriers, compounded by language differences.

“It’s a challenging scenario, especially when attempting to navigate bureaucratic processes. Despite the odds, people continue to arrive, hoping against hope for a chance at a better life. ”

In the face of adversity, Barnabus remains steadfast in its mission to provide support and sanctuary.

“Before, we could only offer short-term help,” Alex reflects, “but now we have some places where people can stay longer to get back on their feet.”

Yvonne emphasises the need for systemic change, particularly in the realm of affordable housing.

“No one has ever defined what ‘affordable’ is in any satisfactory, meaningful way,” she contends.

“If we thought we were struggling with housing in  March 2020, we are in a full-blown housing crisis four years later.”

How to help the homeless in Manchester

Both Yvonne and Alex underscore the vital role of community support in combating homelessness.

“The power of community and the will to do the right thing by people who are homeless” remains a guiding principle for Barnabus, said Yvonne.

Alex concludes with a poignant call to action: “Many people think homelessness is less of a problem in summer, but that’s not true. Homelessness can happen any time of year.”

What does Barnabus do?

Barnabus have got the facilities to help, but you can also help out.

“Alongside providing supported housing, we offer move-on accommodations that set a high standard for living.

“This is really important because there aren’t many good housing options, especially ones that are affordable. Our aim is to give people something to aim for, to help them feel good about themselves and their future.

“We also ask for donations of clothing, toiletries, bags, and rucksacks through our website. We have a special page that explains how you can help. Your support means a lot to us and the people we assist.

“Homelessness can happen any time of year. That’s why it’s important for our community to keep giving, even during the summer months. Your generosity ensures that people in crisis get the help they need, whenever they need it.”

You can donate to Barnabus by clicking here

A multifaceted crisis

Amid these challenges, it becomes evident that the homelessness crisis is multifaceted, with economic, social, and governmental factors contributing.
Yvonne emphasises the need for a concerted effort to address the systemic issues underlying homelessness.

“Where there is political will, there is a way,” she asserts, urging policymakers to prioritise affordable housing and support services for vulnerable populations.

As the cost of living continues to rise, Hope stresses the need for affordable housing solutions that cater to low-income families and individuals.

With rents and house prices skyrocketing, marginalised communities are disproportionately affected, further exacerbating the homelessness crisis.

In response to these challenges, Barnabus remains committed to providing holistic support to individuals experiencing homelessness.

Alex emphasises the importance of community solidarity in addressing the root causes of homelessness.

“We aim to give people something to aim for, to help them feel good about themselves and their future, It’s not just handouts. We all can pull together to help people out” he said, underscoring the organisation’s commitment to empowering individuals on their journey towards stability.

Yvonne and Simpson’s impassioned pleas serve as a reminder of the urgent need for systemic change and community solidarity in the fight against homelessness.

You can find out more about Barnabus work by clicking here

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