Manchester City Council

Cathy and Cardboard

I said I would return to the Council's draft budget and homelessness later in the week and this is it. It comes on the back of a visit to the Royal Exchange studio theatre last night to see Cardboard Citizens perform their play Cathy and to take part in the discussion that followed. The play itself was excellent in script, production and performance and I would highly recommend it except the remaining performances are already sold out. There is however a live streamed performance coming up and I will see if I can add the link for it.

The play was realistic and dramatic without being overdone. Although largely set in London, from what I know of homelessness in this city, most of it was all too recognisable. In telling one story it also managed to convey the complexity of homelessness, that different people become homeless for different reasons and respond in different ways. It also showed that most homelessness isn't people sleeping rough but is hidden. It's temporary accommodation, sofa surfing, refuges and it's a lot of people. From the survey work done for the Council we know most homeless people are not rough sleepers, not all rough sleepers are homeless, most beggars are not homeless though many are, and we and our partners need to try and respond to this complexity and we need help to do so.

It is a problem that is getting worse and not just in Manchester. We are not building enough new homes in this country and haven't been doing for some time, benefits are being cut, many low paid workers have increased earnings insecurity and for some of the people in greatest need, mental health, drug and alcohol services are under ever increasing pressure.

The City Council can't solve all of these problems but working, with our voluntary sector and other public sector partners we can make a difference. A month ago we agreed an affordable housing policy that has an ambitious target of 2,000 new homes a year affordable for people on low-incomes. We are looking at how we can provide more supported move-on accommodation for people making the journey out of homelessness. We are looking at housing services to see what we can do around earlier intervention - the best way of dealing with much homelessness is to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place.

The draft 2017-20 budget allocates an additional £1m per year to homelessness, rough sleeping and begging. Working through the Homeless Charter we aim to have 24/7 provision - food, shelter, advice and guidance - so that nobody needs to be on the street. We know lots of people want to help so we will continue to support the Big Change and encourage people to give to those charities and voluntary organisations that help people into a home, and will discourage giving to people on the street, something that however well-intentioned simply perpetuates the problem.

Finally we will expect Council staff and GMP to take a zero-tolerance approach to street begging, to clear away the detritus abandoned by beggars on the street and we will support them in doing so.

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There are 4 responses to “Cathy and Cardboard”

  1. Gary Miller Says:

    Where can people donate to the Big Change? There used to be boxes dotted around the city but i haven't seen these for some time. The issue is painfully visible now and people do want to contribute but it isnt always clear how. Needs some profile raising.

  2. ManRes Says:

    For those that haven't got tickets to watch this - just walk from Piccadilly Station, through "the gardens" and down to Market Street to catch the live show...

  3. Save Our Green Belt Says:

    Some interesting points raised here, in particular I am interested in the your point re the housing policy and affordable homes and how this ties in with the GMSF? In particular, why the two don't seem to tie together? I completely understand the need for new housing, especially affordable homes for the many residents like myself who are struggling to get on the property ladder due to my public sector wages; however I do not understand why the GMSF seems to focus on building 4 and 5 bedroom "Aspiration Homes" on Green Belt land? Surely the GMSF should be working towards supporting GM's growth ambitions by reducing the inequalities in the housing provision across all 10 areas, and by building more affordable housing and using this as a lever for housing regeneration?

  4. Dave Says:

    @GaryMiller. This is taken from the Big Change website.

    Want to help the homeless this winter?
    There are lots of ways you can support homeless people in Manchester, but rather than giving money directly to people on the streets, supporting the Big Change campaign helps to bring about long-term change.
    Bringing together charities, organisations and individuals who want to end homelessness, the Big Change campaign really will make a big change in our city, and there are lots of things you can do to help:
    Donate to the Big Change fund – it’s used by the relevant charities and organisations to make sure your donation gives maximum benefit, helping people to build new lives away from the streets. It can help fund deposits for flats, for example, or training courses and bus fares for job interviews
    Find out what the charities that are working directly with the homeless really need, before going ahead with a collection of items. The website provides up to date information of what’s needed the most
    Give to the charities direct to make sure your donations get to the people who need them most
    Give your time. You can volunteer to help at many of the charities or organisations working daily to support homeless people
    Find out more at



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

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