Examining the reasons

What future is there for the homeless? More and more people are homeless but little is being done to solve this problem. Many members of the public believe that the government and the homeless themselves, share the bigger portion of the blame, however, there may be more reasons for this crisis.

The Public's Opinion

The public expressed very different points of view on this topic. Many people do not treat the homeless with the same level of respect and human dignity. The homeless are addressed as lazy and addicted to substances such as alcohol and drugs. Ben said, “They can actually do a part-time and actually earn about 6 pounds per hour and I’m sure it’s not difficult to find a job here”. On the other hand, Danny a first time tourist who has been in Manchester for about 10 days, is of the opinion that the city is very dirty and felt that in such a large city more organizations and the government should provide adequate shelter and some activities to help rebuild the confidence and self esteem of the homeless.

Homeless in Manchester
“They just need somewhere to live.” Mark, a member of the public

The Facts Around the Crisis

numberhomelessThe Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 25, par. 1, states “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” That is the theory. In reality, an estimated 100 million people were homeless worldwide, according to a global survey by the United Nations in 2005 and as many as 1.6 billion people lacked adequate housing, according to Habitat in 2015.

The charts show that the number of homeless people in Manchester in 2015 has dramatically increased compared to previous years and cities.

barchartPeople can become homeless for many reasons but the one thing that is common is that they do not have a permanent place to live anymore. Moreover, being homeless can be a very traumatic experience. In England, during 2014-15, there were 54,430 homeless households and an average of 498 people sleep rough each night, with 248 of those in London. In a big city like Manchester, when you walk through the streets, homeless people are seen hanging around street corners or on a pedestrian way asking everyone for some change.

Compared to previous years, Manchester has a growing number of homeless people. New figures from the Independent News show there are about 70 rough sleepers in the city on any given night. Homeless organizations believe the figure to be much higher.

What the homeless say

The homeless often have negative stereotypes attached to them. It is difficult for people to imagine, how the homeless feel without any shelter out there in such chilling and wet weather. However, after speaking to homeless people in Manchester about the difficulties they have been experiencing, their hopes for recovery, and any help they may or may not be getting from the government along with their plans for the future, there is a lot more to the problem than the labels.

“Just stop cutting all the benefits, all the shelters, just put more money into it, it’s a bigger problem than what they realize” Richard

Reasons for the crisis

Afzal Khan, a Labour Party politician who serves as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), recently sent a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron about homelessness, expressing his concerns on this increasing problem. He feels that homelessness stems from complex reasons such as mental illness, alcohol and drug abuse, and loss of job. Britain, as the fifth richest country in the 21st century, should deal with this problem better and not be content with the current situation.

House rental fees in the city of Manchester are dramatically increasing creating limited affordable housing. Combine this with higher utility rates and fuel prices and more importantly – the lack of living wage jobs, many more people are becoming homeless. The government has increased spending to prevent homelessness, making over £500 million available to help the most vulnerable in society and have brought in strong protections to guard families against the threat of homelessness according to the Vice Chamberlain of HM Household, Kris Hopkins. However, few people understand that many of the homeless are in a dreadful situation and they cannot deal with their situation, in many cases, because of their addiction and mental health issues. People whose lives have descended into chaos cannot or will not follow rules.

Who's helping?

mustard tree

barnabusSeveral organizations and charities lend a hand to help those homeless people by providing temporary housing but their financial limitations are obviously the key hurdle. There are many charities in Manchester dealing with the homeless such as Barnabus and The Mustard Tree. They work hard to provide food and shelter to anyone who needs them. However, they still have limited resources so it is impossible to help everyone and it is not a permanent solution to this problem.

Homelessness crisis in Manchester went global last October, when the former Manchester United star Gary Neville allowed a group of homeless to live inside the city’s old stock exchange building during winter. He ensured that they were kept safe inside but in return the residents promised to keep the building clean. However, he closed it after allowing them to stay for three months.

Manchester Metropolitan University has a homepage with the headline “Homelessness: How we can all make a difference” in preparation for part of World Homeless Day 2015 and to help MMU staff and students to find out more about homeless issues and how they can all make a difference. There are three interesting action items, provided by this MMU site. They are joining with the City of Manchester to tackle the problems. These include helping to educate people about homeless issues, ensuring the right advice and long-term support is reaching the people who need it most, and providing funding to a number of voluntary and third sector organizations to support homeless people. Cooperation may not guarantee success, but at least it is better than blaming each other.

Manchester Council

picadillyManchester City Council is putting effort into helping the homeless by calling on the federal government to review the reduction in funding to mental health services and to start work on a 'Housing First' model of homelessness services. However, the council last year was unable to meet the funding for homelessness services but £1.5 million was spent on parks and recreation spaces. Also, £32 million will be invested to develop the new St John’s and Trinity Islands but the plans contain no social housing – which, along with a lack of funding and support services, appears to be a key factor in the current crisis.

The Views of Afzal Khan MEP

Mr Afzal Khan MEP
“ By 2020 the benefits that rich people get will be equal to what the poor people get. How can that be right? ” Mr Afzal Khan

According to Afzal Khan MEP, the homeless problem in Greater Manchester is going to be much worse in the coming years. The number of homeless has doubled from what it was in 2013. He also said that the Prime Minister should accept the European Union (EU) funds that he previously refused, in order to tackle the rising problem of homelessness. The UK opted out of this fund because they thought they could do a better job and deliver more efficient support to homeless people, but it is not enough and the actual numbers are increasing. Given the fact that the effort the government is making is not sufficient, it is necessary for society to wake up and mobilize people in this issue.

Khan’s message serves as a wake-up call for all concerned about the current situation as he hopes to improve the government’s outlook and also gain more support from them. He also shared some constructive views with regard to priorities given to homeless people, Manchester City Council’s role in this matter, and homeless benefits cut by the government.

Mr Khan is running a campaign to encourage the government to tackle the homeless problem. He is hoping the government will change policies, pay more attention to the issues, and obtain more EU funding.

“Cuts to welfare and to council budgets mean more and more people are being forced to sleep rough on the streets. ” Afzal Khan

Homelessness is increasing but giving coins and food to people sitting on the street is not a permanent solution. Many charities and community groups are trying their best to help but many of these initiatives are short-term solutions. As a society, we need to address the reasons behind this issue and make these a priority so that we can solve this problem.

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