Manchester’s got a homelessness problem. Last year there was a 42% increase in rough sleeping in Greater Manchester. There are now eight times more homeless people in Manchester than there are beds available for them, with an estimated 300 people still sleeping rough on the streets every night.
Here’s something which could help Mayor Andy Burnham achieve his goal of ending rough sleeping by 2020.
A double decker tour bus is being transformed into 14-bed accommodation to help some of Manchester’s homeless. That’s a total of 5,110 nights off the streets in the first year alone.
But it’s not your usual Stagecoach-style double decker. It’s a former tour vehicle once used by big names in the music industry, which will boast two lounges and a kitchen, as well as storage space and privacy for guests.
The project has been spearheaded by local charity Embassy and is the brainchild of husband and wife Sid and Tess Williams, who wanted a practical solution to the stress and turmoil experienced by the city’s rough sleepers.
“A safe place to sleep and rest is the most basic of needs, but many people who find themselves homeless have been deprived of that,” said Sid.
“You can’t face the process of finding a permanent home when you are exhausted and living hour to hour.
“The bus is a quick way to provide safe and comfortable beds, adding to the city’s provision. Once people are there, they’ll be able to make useful connections with agencies, businesses and churches who could change their future, providing support into permanent homes and full-time employment.”
It will be parked at the Stagecoach depot during the day, with the bus company providing this service free of charge, and at Manchester City Mission overnight.
It will cater specifically for vulnerable men. If successful, more vehicles could be brought into the fleet.
Guests will be referred by partner agencies. It will be fully managed and staffed, with the aim to connect it with Manchester businesses who could offer full-time employment to guests during their stay.
Big names who have got behind the bus include property and regeneration specialists Capital&Centric, who donated half of the upfront costs to buy the vehicle. They are now supporting Embassy in their fundraising drive for further donations.
“Businesses have a role to play in seeking out these creative ideas and making them happen,” said Tim Heatley, Capital&Centric co-founder and chair of Andy Burnham’s Business Network for the Homeless.
“I’ll be encouraging that as part of the Business Network, but I’m leading by example with my own business, putting our hand in our pockets.
“The bus will become a lifeline for those in the city that need rest, support and a route back into a community that cares.
“We need pragmatic and cost effective solutions to helping our homeless and rough sleepers. When Sid set out his vision for the Embassy bus project we were sold. We knew we had to get behind it.”
The bus is a practical solution which will provide a safe space for people in need. Its provision of emergency beds is crucial as it takes around six weeks for a person to go from the streets to permanent accommodation.
It’s one bus I don’t mind getting behind. In fact, I intend to.