A home gives us stability. A home helps us to remain healthy. A home is a place we can cook and eat meals, shower, and wash our clothes. A home has a bed with a pillow.
Manchester is a place we are proud to call home, but for most of us this is merely a figure of speech rather than a harsh reality. For many people, the streets of Manchester is their real home, day and night. Thankfully, Manchester is a city full of compassionate and hard-working people, many of whom are not content to simply accept this state of affairs.
Therefore, in a collective effort to tackle homelessness, city leaders, faith groups, businesses, the voluntary sector, street charities, health groups, Greater Manchester Police, Manchester City Council, the universities and others have all come together under one banner: the Manchester Homelessness Charter.
On Monday 9 May, the Manchester Homelessness Charter was launched. This event may have passed you by, but for those who are directly affected by homelessness in Manchester; it was an occasion of some significance. Developed through conversation with people who are or have been homeless, and with their voices at its core, the charter is the city’s new approach to tackling, and ultimately ending, homelessness.
The charter outlines the principles that establish how the people who experience homelessness should be treated, and how the city intends to deal with the problem. It calls for those who have adopted the charter to demonstrate their support with a pledge to take action.
This pledge could include financial contributions, donating in-kind resources such as volunteers, products, skills or expertise, or supporting employment projects by offering entry level jobs. The aim is to work together to achieve more than we could individually, and to reduce homelessness and ultimately eliminate it. Have a listen to Mustard Tree’s Jez Green, the Charter’s lead, tell you all about in this short video.
The creation of this charter has been led by Mustard Tree, who from the very beginning was keen to involve people without a home, to help give them a voice and show them they are not alone. The process of creating the charter involved extensive consultation with people who have personally experienced homelessness, as well as with staff and volunteers from dozens of organisations working in the sector across the city. You can read the charter here.
On 9 May, some of those, who are homeless and had been involved in this process stood on the steps of Manchester town hall and officially presented the charter to various civic, faith and business leaders. Following this symbolic handover, nine people who are currently homeless shared their stories, which were both moving and inspiring. They had become homeless for a wide variety of reasons: drug and alcohol dependency; the breakdown of a key relationship; the loss of a job; fleeing unstable situations in their home country.
Established local charity the Booth Centre work with the majority of those who spoke about their experience of homelessness at the event, and are proud to be in the vanguard of support for the Manchester Homelessness Charter. Along with Mustard Tree, they are one of the organisations at the centre of the Manchester Homeless Partnership. The Partnership is the grouping of charities, grass roots groups and public sector bodies who have chosen to work more closely together to combat homelessness.One of the most startling insights on the day came from listening to eighteen year old Connor, who had lived on the due to ongoing problems at home. He had no idea that his age at the time would have made him a priority need with the council, and he only received help once he connected with The Limes, a hostel that specialises in supporting young people. It is incredible to hear that he came through this experience without resorting to drugs or legal highs, and is a stark reminder that it could be our own teenage child, relative or friend in such a vulnerable position.
The consultation process used for writing the charter has also enabled a number of key priority issues in the city to be identified. Action groups, each chaired by an experienced professional, and each including a number of people with personal experience of the issue, have been created around eight priority areas so far. These include: improving mental health provision for people who are homeless; increasing emergency accommodation for rough sleepers; creating an indoor evening provision for rough sleepers; and improving substandard temporary accommodation.
Another priority area is to increase employment opportunities for those who are homeless. Landing a job can be the most effective way to move sustainably out of homelessness; but looking for work while homeless presents some barriers that can be challenging to overcome. As the Bishop of Manchester, Rt Rev David Walker said on Monday, “It can be a long, hard journey back. Working together within the Manchester Charter is our best chance both to help people on that journey of recovery, and to reduce the numbers who fall into the trap of homelessness.”
Greater Manchester Police’s Chief Constable, Ian Hopkins, said: “Greater Manchester Police is committed to protecting the most vulnerable in our society and we are pleased to support the Homelessness Charter, which reaffirms that commitment and creates a defined network of aid and advice. We will continue to work closely with partner agencies and our local communities to identify those who need assistance, and give them the help they need to create a better life.”
Becoming homeless could happen to absolutely anyone: just look at some real life stories. Maybe it was an eviction, being made redundant or a health problem. Without family, friends or support, who would you turn to? We can all play a role in stamping out our city’s homelessness problem and in supporting people to make positive progression in life.