Manchester City Council

Homelessness and Street Begging


I said a couple of weeks ago that I would do something on homelessness but I'm going to start this post with a few words on street begging, something that in the public's eye is often associated with homelessness. The evidence we have suggests that 80% of street beggars are not homeless. Manchester people are a generous lot and so many are more than willing to put something into an empty cup. So generous that we've had at least one example of somebody commuting from London to beg on our streets. I suspect that most people who give to beggars think the money is going to pay for food and shelter when the most likely beneficiaries are the nearest off-licence, drug dealer, or the mysterious people seen dropping some beggars off in the city centre and then picking them up again later in the day. One of the things we want to do as a Council over the coming weeks is to have a real engagement with generous Manchester people about how their generosity can most benefit people in genuine need, largely by supporting those voluntary organisations best placed to work with people on the street, rather than by supporting individual drug and alcohol habits.  

Having said that, homelessness is a serious and growing problem not just in Manchester but across the country. Lack of affordable housing, welfare cuts, and cuts to support services have all fuelled this growth and it is an issue the Council takes very seriously. People are homeless for a range of reasons, relationship breakdown, estrangement from parents, loss of job included. The most difficult group constituting the long-term rough sleepers are people with chaotic, dysfunctional lifestyles often with drink, drug, and mental health problems, where their needs are far deeper than simply putting a roof over their head. We have an Assistant Executive Member, Councillor Emily Rowles, whose principal task is to develop our response to the current crisis. We have a sub-group of one of our Scrutiny Committees looking at the policies and practice we need and we have been actively involving homelessness charities and homeless people in designing the services we need.  

One thing we do know is that plonking tents in the city centre is not a way of dealing with homelessness although in reality many of the tent occupiers are not homeless. For those who are in that complex needs category and providing them with all the equipment to stay on the street makes it much, much harder to provide the support people with complex issues need to get and hold down a home. I know many people think the Council is being unnecessarily tough with the street camps. I think we have a number of serial protestors who are quite willing to use some of our most vulnerable citizens for their own political ends, including making it difficult for our street homelessness team to reach out to people who need help. In terms of the "protests", we have been able to house everyone in the camps who was willing to be housed, and we are working on proposals to ensure that as winter comes in, nobody needs to be out on the street.   


There are 21 responses to “Homelessness and Street Begging”

  1. Loz Says:

    How does giving someone a tent and a sleeping bag make it harder to give them a house and provide whatever support is needed for them to keep it?

  2. Zach Says:

    I'm pretty disgusted at the reaction from the council towards the homeless. From what I have seen, the action taken against people at The Ark on Oxford Road was nothing short of disgraceful.

    We are a Labour council and we have a leader of the Labour Party who has said that peaceful protest of unjust laws is acceptable. I happen to agree with him.

    I think the people at The Ark were an important reminder to many people who wouldn't normally consider the blight of homelessness.

    I doubt things will improve for the vulnerable and those who have precarious lives. I hope the way we treat people less fortunate does improve.

  3. Matt Says:

    can Mr Leese please provide references to back up us comments. Can he say what report he is referring to when he says that 80% of beggars are not homeless? What definition of homeless is the Council using? Does it include people who maybe staying with friends but have not secure permanent accommodation? Mr Leese points to the lack of housing. Would he acknowlege that the Council has presided over the dwindling of supply of social housing in the City?
    Mr Leese neglects to mention that many of the people who he says have refused council help have done so as they say they have experienced unsafe conditions while in accommodation provided by the Council.
    Please can Mr Leese include references and links to documents in future instead of referring to reports and evidence which he then does not produce.

  4. Andrew Says:

    The Big Issue. The original idea behind this publication was to give homeless people a chance to earn money and make a start on the road to getting off the streets. How on earth can a guy with a mobile phone in one hand and a new pair of trainers on his feet call themselves homeless? The selling of the Big Issue seems to have been taken away from those that need it, I know this as I have spoke to people who work in housing and they actively encourage tenants that wont find a proper job to go and sell the Big Issue, how can this be right? When did this change?

    I've walked around Manchester City Centre and to be honest the majority of us can tell the difference between a beggar and a homeless person, all those stupid buskers, statue people (who only manage to scare little kids when they try and give them a lollipop) and the really annoying woman and man the sit outside primark and play that one out of tune accordion and they only know one tune (if you can call it that?).
    These people are beggars plain and simple Eastern European economic migrants that have a home in Manchester or a borough nearby and instead of looking for a job are begging on the streets. These are the people that need to be stopped, this is not genuine and effective work.

    Homelessness will never go away some people choose it as a life style I know this as I have spoke to them and them on the flip side there are those people that have been made homeless due to no fault of their own and it has been down to the system and this is what needs looking at and putting right. With a fare of £12 each way if you can make enough money doing it I can easily see people travelling from London for a long weekend begging on the streets of Manchester.

    As far a houses go we all know there are not enough social houses and the ones that are available are aimed at families, NOT a single man looking to make a move in the right direction. Ardwick, Gorton, East Manchester all have housing projects at the moment all aimed at families there are no 1 bed apartments/flats being build those are in the centre of Manchester and cost anything between £700 - £1000 a month to rent and then have Council tax in the region of £20 pm (if getting full Council Tax Support). With the best will in the world someone coming off the streets can not afford that.

    This needs looking at and looking at soon with Manchester growing and more and more people looking to live and work in the area it stands to reason the number of homeless and beggars will increase what we need to do is put in place a system to help those that want to be helped to get off the streets, get rid of the unnecessary beggars that do it instead of finding a job, and for those who find it difficult for whatever reason to get themselves back into society we need to make sure that there is somewhere for them to go when they need help.

    The Council Should and Do provide help and support for homeless people but at the end of the day if that individual doesn't want that help it should not be forced on them. But for this that Do want the help it should be easy to access and it should be relevant.

  5. Guy-S Says:

    1) Please can you provide a link to the evidence your comments are based on, so we can be evaluated it.

    2) Can you provide a link to the evidence of ''we've had at least one example of somebody commuting from London to beg on our streets''
    If the evidence of this one person commuting to beg is purely anecdotal, and then mentioned in context with assured data, it would surly be misleading.

    To be honest, I just don't believe that anyone would commute to Manchester from London to beg. Using the word commuting means doing so daily!. If the profits from begging were indeed that large then I suspect the trains would be full of day return professional beggars.
    The real truth is that nobody begs by choice and I believe your comments are really made to demonize beggars in order to justify the councils recent move to criminalize homelessness by arresting people if they happen to sleep in a tent.

    Westminster Council tried to introduce a law making it illegal to give money or food to beggars, with the justification that the money only goes to drug dealers and off licenses.
    When in town my partner will always buy a coffee and burger for a beggar on the street, I always give money. It is my experience that in fact most of the money given directly to beggars or the homeless goes on food hot drinks and clothing. When elected officials start demonizing the lees fortunate, I for one get very suspicions, and very concerned.
    Westminster is not a Labor controlled council.

  6. Ian Says:

    Bit of spin here maybe.
    "At least one". Is that one then? Out of how many beggars in Manchester?
    "Commuting." Most people would understand that to mean travelling every weekday - was that really the case?

  7. mike Says:

    have witnessed "beggars" getting out of their cars, putting on dirty clothes and then heading around the corner to "beg". Not all of them are innocent homeless, by a long way!

  8. Steve East London Says:

    The idea that anyone would commute from London to Manchester to 'beg' is utter tripe.

  9. Norman Stratford Says:

    One simple question. Where is your evidence?

  10. nickj Says:

    kicking people when they're down and impugning peoples' charitable motives. just nasty.

  11. Andy R Says:

    Im disappointed to see steet beggars and the homeless being painted in this light. The comments seem to lurch into stereotype without factual basis. The blog refers to charities providing the facilities 'we' need as opposed to those which the Coucil should be obligated to provide. Is this sidestepping of social responsibility aligned to the larger policy of the 'Big Society'? Or a result of the underfunding of recent years?

  12. Bill Raymond Says:

    Lots of requests here for you to substantiate your claims. This was also my reaction to your piece. When might we expect this?

  13. Ruth Says:

    I have to pass these people every day. It has now become a serious health and safety issue. On one side of Oxford Road the smell is terrible. People are urinating. There are fires being lit. People are swigging alcohol and taking drugs. All this in full view of the public. Unfortunately sights like these does not help their case.

  14. j Says:

    3 weeks now for a response from you 'Mr leader' . please provide references to your claims!

  15. Samantha Says:

    It has been proven that providing a homeless person somewhere to live saves lots of money in health care, prison etc. It would be good to see this work in Manchester. Of course, some people choose the life, but lots would love a helping hand to get back on track. I challenge you to save money by supporting the most vulnerable in a sustainable way x

  16. Oliver Says:

    IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER that beggars and homeless people are two different things.

    Not all homeless are beggars and most certainly not all beggars are homeless.

    I am sick to death of vagrants pestering me every day. The city is being ruined by an increasing tide of faux-poverty and you will see many of these 'poor helpless innocent homeless folk' hopping into cars when their 'shift' ends.

    Begging is an industry that has latched itself to the perception of charity towards homelessness and needs to be dealt with much more strictly, lest the streets be further plagued with these human vermin.

  17. Louise Says:

    I have just spent a week in Manchester, the number of men begging on the street ( I never saw a woman begging) is shameful. They were all roughly 30 years younger than I am, none looked physically disabled, all were capable of asking me in English if I could 'pay for a meal' for them. I live in a poor foreign country where there are only 2 regular beggars on the street, who I do give money to because their state of health is dreadful, they can't even speak, I don't give anything to the young who approach me demanding money. The beggars in Manchester need to be investigated, if there is a racket going on sort out the conmen and concentrate on the ones truly in need, they are the ones who are suffering from a lack of help. There are many kind people on this thread who say they give money, but it does not heIp those in need if their generosity is being used by the greedy. Manchester Council is apparently doing nothing about this problem so the city centre will become a place people avoid. I didn't like the atmosphere on the streets so didn't carry money and got out of there without seeing everything I'd hoped to see. Manchester Council, you really need to take action on the begging issue, this thread started October 2015 with no solution to the problem. Manchester is a vibrant community, so much building, regeneration, possibilities, surely there is a solution to this?

  18. Big G Says:

    The problem with beggars in the city centre is getting worse. Some are organised and work in teams. You see them arrive and sit down and cover themselves with a blanket to cover the new trainers and jeans they are wearing. They sit within eye shot of each other to warn when the police are about. There is a difference between beggars and the homeless but people keep giving them money in the false belief they will spend it on food.

  19. john Says:

    Nothing changes. It only gets worse. I walked for an hour through the city recently and was asked for money every 90 seconds. You say that nobody needs to sleep on the streets but you allow it. Police walk past people begging and ignore the 1824 vagrancy act. The council encourages people to live rough by allowing food and clothing distribution. the clothing gets dumped on the street after a few days. My neighbour has just moved out of the city centre because of the way the city is going. Would it be accepted in Bowden of Alderley Edge?

  20. John Gates Says:

    In 1916 a beggar came to sit outside Tesco. He sat by the car park. 18 months on I realise it was a con. I'm told they can earn up to £220 A day. He with his friend share a flat locally. Concerned about homelessness but feeling I'm being taken as a fool.

  21. Kelly Says:

    I have recently become homeless and have found that I had to beg to get many day-to-day things that I'm sure many of you take for granted. I'm talking about the basics, eg. clean underwear, sanitary products, and yes food and drink! I do have to eat every day you know. Sleeping rough on the streets is the most degrading, demoralising and disgusting circumstance I have ever found myself in. As for begging, I myself found it to be the hardest thing in the world to face, I felt so ashamed at times I could barely bring myself to ask anyone if they could possibly spare a little change. Apart from all the usual things like being spat on, having everything thrown at me from red hot cups of coffee to bin bags of rubbish. The abuse I can just about handle, but it was being ignored that made me cry myself to sleep in my sleeping bag in my doorway at nights. It is bad enough that I have found myself in this situation, but to be sneered at and judged to be either on drugs or a fraud. Well, I hope I never judge anyone that harshly in my lifetime. As far as other people who beg are concerned, we all pretty much know each other and to say that they could possibly be getting out of cars and commuting, well, I've NEVER seen or heard of such crap in all of my life. It is true that some if us are on drugs, but not all and to be honest what would you rather they do, shoplift? Burglary? What is the answer if begging isn't? Most of us however, are just trying to survive, seriously, that's the truth if the matter, and £200???? Really, I just about manage to feed myself and keep myself clean, however, I will admit that I have bought the odd bottle of cider, but certainly not every day and I certainly do not have an alcohol problem. The biggest problem is finding the right support, be it with housing, mental health or addictions, usually all 3 is needed but if only housing, for example, is being addressed, then already the situation is about to fail. These issues need to be addressed simultaneously in order for the person to succeed in getting out if thus gutter, but not only do we not get the support needed, but we are then vindicated for failing and told we are doing it "intentionally". Trust ME! Not one of us here in this situation has chosen to be here! "Intentionally"!!! Seriously?



The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

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