Manchester has strengthened its approach to tackling homelessness but will need to ramp up its work even further to address the challenges of forthcoming welfare and legislative changes.
An update report on the issue to be considered by the Council’s Executive on Wednesday 15 November details how the Council and its partner organisations, through the Manchester Homelessness Partnership, have worked to address the issue.
It also provides details of extra beds being made available during winter and plans for the Council to buy homes to provide more temporary accommodation for people who have lost their homes.
Manchester Homelessness Partnership was set up in 2015, bringing together a wide range of charities and voluntary sector organisations, faith groups, businesses and other public sector services to co-ordinate work to address homelessness in the city.
Their work was given added impetus by an extra investment of £1.5 million through the Council’s City Centre Review to address issues of rough sleeping, homelessness and begging.
This approach, working with people who have themselves experienced homelessness to help shape services, has built trust and established a firm focus on treating people as individuals and working with them to develop tailored support to help them.
New services developed have included an increased emphasis on prevention, working with people before they lose their homes and reach crisis point, and on support to help people who have moved on from temporary accommodation to stay in settled homes.
This week (w/c 6 November) the Council has been using its social media accounts to highlight the sheer range of work which is going on across the city.
Examples of developments include:
Plans for the Longford Centre, a 38-bed centre providing integrated support to people who are newly homeless, are set to go to the Council’s planning committee soon.
The Council’s Housing Options service, which is based in the Town Hall’s Customer Service Centre and works with people at risk of losing their homes, has helped prevent almost 100 households from becoming homeless this year.
A Council-commissioned debt advice service is being provided to a number of families living in private rented housing to help prevent them losing their tenancies.
The Council’s Housing Connect service is also working closely with 300 families identified as being at risk of homelessness to give them targeted support.
The Big Change campaign, with which the Partnership including the Council works closely to help allocated funds, has raised more than £100,000 to support people who have been homeless to move forwards in their lives.
Temporary accommodation has been boosted including an extra 125 emergency beds for people who have been sleeping rough through the City Centre review investment and the Stop Start Go hostel in Cheetham Hill, part-funded by Council investment.
The Council’s rough sleeper outreach team has been expanded to ensure they can work at weekends and on extended shift patterns. Working closely with the city centre’s integrated management team – which includes the Council and police – they ensure there is shared knowledge of who is homeless on the streets, so personal plans can be put in place to find them accommodation and support them, but also to tackle any issues caused by aggressive begging or other anti-social behaviour.
Manchester Health and Care Commissioning are working to improve health services for people sleeping rough and others who are homeless – from dental and pharmacy services to mental health and substance misuse treatments – building on the successful model employed at Urban Village practice in Ancoats. More assertive outreach work, for example by drug and alcohol workers, will also help people who are sleeping rough because of health issues.
Improving access to permanent ‘settled’ accommodation
A further 40 new affordable-rent Council homes are due to start on site by the end of March 2018, with 75 more to start in 2018/19. So far this year the Council’s housing provider partners have built 423 affordable homes with 470 more on the way in 2018/19 as part of the Council’s target of 1,000-2,000 new temporary homes being available every year.
The city’s social housing providers have pledged to ensure that at least 18 per cent of new lettings – around 630 a year – are made to households who were homeless and are living in temporary supported accommodation. They are on track to exceed that target this year.
A new resettlement service, developed with the Partnership, will work with up to 60 people to help them maintain a tenancy – with scope for further expansion.
The Council will continue to work closely with these registered providers, and with neighbouring councils, to ensure the best use of available social homes.
Co-ordinating with existing shelters run by voluntary sector organisations, the Council will fund an extra shelter for up to 20 rough sleepers with the most complex needs every night from December through until March 2018. This will be staffed by experienced workers who will provide support and advice to rough sleepers as well as refer them to other services who can help them address issues such as substance misuse or other health-related problems. They will also help them to find longer-term accommodation so they do not need to return to the streets.
The shelter will co-ordinate with the work of other outreach services, day centre and evening drop-in sessions which support rough sleepers.
Some 90 extra bed spaces which were created last winter will continue to be provided alongside other contingency plans for bad weather.
Councillor Bernard Priest, deputy leader of Manchester City Council, said: “We all share the ultimate goal of ending homelessness in Manchester. Together with a wide range of partner organisations we have been working hard over the last two years to strengthen the services available.
“An increasingly important element of this is prevention, working with people at risk to help stop them becoming homeless. But where people do lose their homes, and in the most visible cases end up on the streets, it’s about providing structured support which will give them not just a roof over their heads but the confidence to move forwards in their lives so they can have a permanent, sustainable home. This means ensuring co-ordinated ‘wraparound’ advice and support to help them address the issues which contributed to them losing their homes such as poor health, substance misuse and debt.
“It’s an ongoing challenge and it’s not getting any easier. Welfare and legal changes and the impact of austerity mean the numbers of people becoming homeless, nationally and not just in Manchester and other big cities, are continuing to increase. We are determined to do we all can to help the individuals. But it will need concerted action at a local, regional and national level to ease the underlying causes of this situation.”