Five months on from the launch of Manchester’s Homelessness Charter, organisers marked World Homeless Day (10 October) by highlighting what they have achieved since May and to appeal for more people and organisations to get involved.
Since the Charter was launched to tackle the growing challenge of homelessness in the city, more than 100 pledges have been secured from a range of individuals, charities, businesses and public sector organisations offering support and help.
Pledges have ranged from practical support, volunteering time and skills to homeless organisations, commitment to provide employment opportunities, involvement in homeless action groups and ensuring that staff understand the Charter's principles - as well as offers of training and support for people with experience of homelessness.
A recent pledge from St Ann’s Church is to provide a safe space for people sleeping rough who are moved out of shop doorways in the early hours. In addition 'Morning Hours' will offer the use of toilet facilities, as well as a basic breakfast of tea or coffee and toast every Friday, at 7am and 9am, in the church.
The church also plans to re-establish an annual commemoration service, to remember members of the homeless community who have died and for those who are homeless to remember friends and family members who have died.
Reverend Jude Mitson, Curate at St Ann’s Church, said: “St Ann’s welcomes the opportunity to partner with others in working towards a shared vision of seeing an end to homelessness in our City. As a church community we greatly value the encouragement and support that we have received through this partnership, and we count it a privilege to add our pledge to the existing pledges in the Manchester Homelessness Charter.”
Another significant outcome from the Charter has been the establishment of nine action groups to tackle the key challenges that people experiencing homelessness regularly face, such as access to mental health support, emergency accommodation and employment. All of these groups include people who have experienced homeless, as well as those who have the relevant skills and professional expertise.
One of the action groups has been exploring how to create new indoor evening services for homeless people. The action group surveyed homeless people who said that a toilet, shower, washing machine and a listening ear are the most important things that people currently on the streets would like in the evenings.
A partnership developed between Young People's Support Foundation and Coffee4Craig and a new weekly drop-in service opened in September at the City Centre Project on Oldham Street. So far, dozens of people have used the drop in which provides homeless people with a warm and safe place to have a meal, get a shower and some clean clothes, and get advice and support from a team of dedicated volunteers. Feedback from people using the service has been very positive. While this new service is still being tested out, it is hoped that this will become a long term arrangement.
The Action Group is also looking for other suitable venues to meet their objective of providing an evening offer across the city every night of the week to homeless and vulnerable people in Manchester.
Jo Wilson, who has been homeless herself in the past, is now an active member of the Charter Action Group that is working on improving the Homeless Presentation service at Manchester Town Hall.
Jo said: "I've been involved in one of the Charter Action Groups, so I've been able to explain how it feels to be homeless and what help people really need. Through the Action Group, we are hoping to change the way the council assesses and speaks to people who find themselves homeless.
“It's great that the council, police and other services are starting to get involved with the Charter. This is an opportunity for them to listen to people with experience of homelessness, to change their attitudes and working practices and hopefully reduce homelessness and rough sleeping in Manchester."
The Manchester Homelessness Partnership Board has representatives from across the public, private, faith and charity sectors and is chaired by the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd David Walker. It has been established to help ensure that the commitment to tackling homelessness and the actions needed is supported by all of the city's leaders.
Councillor Paul Andrews, Executive Member for Adult Health and Wellbeing, said: “It's clear that no organisation can tackle this problem on its own and it is through the commitment of many organisations working together that we will best address the issue of homelessness in Manchester.
"Through the Homelessness Partnership, which involves all sectors in the city - and, crucially, people with experience of homelessness - we are getting an insight into the positive difference we can make to people's lives. This is only the beginning and we hope that everyone will join us in pledging their support and playing their part. ”
Jez Green, Charter lead from the Mustard Tree, said: “I am heartened by the response we have already received to the Manchester Homelessness Charter, by way of pledges and the level of partnership work that is happening. I'm very grateful to the many people with personal experience of homelessness who have chosen to be involved in the charter's action groups, as well as many others from a great variety of organisations around the city.
"For me, the most encouraging aspect of the charter is the focus we have on co-producing solutions to homelessness by keeping the voice and ideas of those with lived experience central. I would very much like to see more people with current or recent experience of homelessness getting involve in the groups, as well as more new partners joining the cause by making pledges via the Street Support website.”
To make a pledge or an offer of support to the Manchester Homelessness Charter go to the www.streetsupport.net
Manchester’s Homelessness Charter was launched in May 2016. It has grown from the collaboration and consultation with people who have experienced homelessness, charities, community and faith organisations, the council, businesses and other interested parties.
To see a list of pledges go to https://charter.streetsupport.net/progress/
An annual event since 2010, World Homeless Day aims to raise awareness and draw attention to homeless people’s needs and to focus attention on how communities can help and get involved.
ISSUED ON BEHALF OF THE MANCHESTER HOMELESSNESS PARTNERSHIP