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.