It’s October already. Which means it’s almost winter, and the nights get darker earlier and temperatures drop, Manchester has taken steps to ensure that nobody who is sleeping rough is left out in the cold.
Each year plans are developed to ensure that, in addition to existing accommodation, suitable spaces are available for even those who would normally decline support whenever the temperature is forecast to drop below freezing.
This year’s approach has some important differences and apparently some ‘significant improvements’.
It is built on the legacy of the Everybody In initiative, which brought many people who were sleeping rough off the streets during the Covid-19 lockdown and put them up in a hotel, with access to extensive support, to help them stay safe and begin to rebuild their lives. This approach has been extended until March next year, with funding from the Greater Manchester A Bed Every Night scheme.
In previous years, emergency cold weather provision – which is available for a minimum of three nights from the night the temperature is the first forecast to drop below zero and can be extended in the event of a prolonged cold snap – has mainly consisted of shelters and sit-up spaces in other buildings.
However, such shared spaces are “not Covid-safe”, and all places in the new system are in single rooms.
The council will be using places in the existing A Bed Every Night system made available as people move on to other temporary or permanent accommodation and hotel rooms.
Not only is there more capacity this year, but there are also currently fewer people sleeping on the streets because of the impact of the Everybody In and A Bed Every Night initiatives. The last monthly headcount of people sleeping rough in the city was 49 – while these figures are just a snapshot and should be treated with some caution, they do provide an indication of trends – for comparison the figure last September was 85.
“The simple message this autumn and winter is that nobody needs to be left out in the cold,” said the council’s lead member on homelessness, Councillor Luthfur Rahman OBE.
“As well as the support which is always available to help people off the streets, the Council and a range of partners have built-in additional capacity to protect everyone from the bitterest weather. This means accommodation that is warm, dignified, secure and Covid-safe and wherever possible comes with access to support for health issues including addiction to drugs or alcohol.
“We don’t just want to help people off the streets for a few days. We want to help them rebuild their lives and stay in permanent accommodation.”
The city’s cold weather response is being delivered through a public, voluntary and community/charity sector partnership involving Barnabus, The Booth Centre, Coffee 4 Craig, Centrepoint, The Men’s Room, On The Out, Reach Out To the Community, and Greater Manchester Police as well as the Council.