After being woken up yet again by the blasted street cleaners I made my way back into the centre of town. Thankfully my legs were feeling much better, although my sore throat and cough were getting quite bad. I spent the morning sat in Piccadilly gardens doing the only thing I could… Sit there. I was starting to understand why so many guys on the street turn to drink and drugs, I certainly felt like I could have benefited from something to help me pass the time. Sometimes I could be sat there for what I thought was 2 hours only to look to look at the time to see just 5 minutes had passed by. My next port of call was Cornerstones drop in centre and after a gruelling walk to Moss side I finally arrived and was quite looking forward to it as I had heard good things from Mustard Trees clients and volunteers. When I went in the place was buzzing, it was lively and there were a lot of people there. I was greeted by a lady named Ann, she was very warm and welcoming. After getting a free cup of coffee I went and sat in the t.v. room and watched murder she wrote! It felt good to be able to sit down in front of the telly and chill out. Things felt normal for a little while. I wandered around watching people laugh and joke, playing pool and eating food. People seemed to have a sense of belonging here and lets face it we all need to belong somewhere don’t we? I then got speaking to Alice, another member of staff. I asked her how many of the guys that turn up here was homeless rough sleepers. She wasn’t sure but she said the majority of them probably were, and there was around 50-60 people there. She also said there was a massive need for more night shelters around Manchester as the guys had nowhere to go after the day centres had closed and I agreed. But with council figures on homeless people in Manchester standing at around just 7 why would they see a need to open any night shelters? In fact I had heard they were closing them down. The best was yet to come at Cornerstones. ‘Would you like a shower?’ I was asked. Would I??!! I couldn’t get in there fast enough! I grabbed some clean clothes and was given a clean towel and some shower gel, it had been 4 days since I last washed properly and I was getting quite smelly. I left Cornerstones feeling refreshed and reassured that the guys on the street did have places to go where they were welcomed, accepted, fed and clothed. I myself was becoming more grateful by the day for the charities and organisations that help these people. But what Alice had said about night shelters had struck a cord in me in terms of homeless people having nothing during the evenings and nights. That night I walked around town… It was about 1:30 a.m. and I wanted to see how many guys I could see bedding down, I walked from the top end of Piccadilly to the bottom of Market Street cutting up through the back streets and was able to count around 20 guys gearing up for a night on the concrete. If I counted 20 rough sleepers in that short area how many would there be in the whole of the city centre? And how many would there be in the whole of Greater Manchester? Potentially hundreds I imagined to myself.
I went and sat by the canal on Dale Street. By this point I was a sleep deprived mess, I had only had about 9-10 hours of disturbed, light sleeping and I really didn’t want to spend another night in St. Anne’s Square…As I looked up across the canal I saw some semi-built apartments and I noticed a hole in the fence surrounding it. Hmm…I thought. Worth checking out. I crossed the canal and got through the hole in the fence, climbed up the scaffolding up to the third floor and jumped over the balcony. Perfect! I was really pleased with myself and quite excited at the prospect of having a good sleep. I had 6 hours and boy did I need it.