As Manchester’s costs rise, so does the homeless community

6 Mins read

With developments moving so fast, the city is leaving some residents behind…

The number 7,407 is a huge figure in any context no matter the topic. One in seventy-four people shows a significant trend, something that isn’t particularly uncommon in a local area.

This is the reality of the on-going homeless epidemic in Manchester, the North West’s leading city for rough sleepers, and a homeless community from young children, to the elderly.

Manchester has a history that many cities cannot match, with culture bleeding out of the walls and home to groundbreaking talents known worldwide.

The city continues to change in front of residents’ very eyes, becoming evermore gentrified to live up to its major scale reputation, yet with the ongoing costs rising, and swanky new-build flats taking over the city centre, it leaves a greater number of residents out-priced, and unable to keep up.

Those who have been able to maintain a property in Manchester are still facing challenges while attempting to maintain a sustainable income.

The Resolution Foundation’s study released last year showed that Manchester residents among four other cities, were ranked as having the lowest disposable household income in the country.

Jane Carroll, a trustee for Manchester’s oldest homeless charity Lifeshare, gave an insight into the charity’s escalating costs for its breakfast project, this primarily being down to the rising demand.

“At the end of last year, we were seeing [roughly] 150 people a weekend to our breakfast project, no questions asked people can come in have a hot shower, eat, and get some clean clothes,” Jane told us.

“The numbers were now experiencing and have been since the summer are 300, that’s an increase of 100%. Our costs are escalating as well in terms of just buying food, everyone knows even the likes of eggs have gone up, and now we are buying for 300 people, as opposed to the 150 originally.”

A Lifehshare volunteer working at their daily breakfast project in Manchester City Centre.
Lifeshare’s breakfast project remains a key setup in Manchester City Centre [Jane Carroll]

Although Lifeshare doesn’t currently receive funding from Manchester City Council, their support to the homeless community never seems to slow down, even going as far as providing a ‘Digital Inclusion Project’ where the charity supplies electronic devices and mobile data.

As of September 2023, Lifeshare has provided more than 710 devices and sims, alongside 13,280 GB of data to allow internet access.

Jane explained certain aspects of digital education and the main tasks the charity often helps the Manchester homeless community with.

“During Covid, there was a big problem because you couldn’t turn up to a council office as they were all closed. Everything was online so, we have a vital structure there to help people with that initiative as well. These days, you can’t have universal credit without an email, or it might be showing people how they can go online to register as homeless.”

Whilst Lifeshare, like many other homeless charities, is doing essential work and providing the best support possible, the cost of living crisis remains a huge strain on all sectors in the field, making it even more difficult to reduce the number of rough sleepers in the city. With the rate of the homeless community continuously rising in Manchester, Jane sees a clear struggle for all parties involved.

“There’s pressure on a lot of services at the moment; young people’s services, adult social care, all of these different things, there’s pressure everywhere with the cost of living and inflation. There are so many reasons for that, there are wars, Covid, and all these sorts of hangovers, and they’re increasing.

If there isn’t a change and if these services continue to struggle to the point where people fall through the gaps, then potentially homelessness can continue to increase.”

Lifeshare has just finished raising funds for their annual Christmas project, beginning on Christmas Eve and finishing on December 29th. Last year, the charity saw over 2,200 members of the community attend the project, serving up 2,500 Christmas dinners.

The rising number of rough sleepers in Manchester has left a great concern to the event organisers, with numbers for the project estimated to be around 3,000, a major increase in comparison to previous years. Lifeshare is currently seeking donations, to raise £30,000 for the project, to which you can donate here.

Homeless charity Centrepoint have had first-hand experience, particularly with full-time working young people, calling for support as they cannot maintain property costs rented by private landlords.

The damage caused by the cost of living is leaving working professionals with no choice but to reach out to organisations aimed at combatting homelessness as they fear losing their homes.

In a statement on the Centrepoint website; “Helpline Advice Workers at Centrepoint have noticed a considerable increase in the number of young people working full-time who cannot afford private rents, especially in London and Manchester. In the last few months, Centrepoint Helpline has been ‘catching people’ who wouldn’t normally use the service.”

A Bed Every Night continues to offer shelter to rough sleepers in the city. (Credits: Mayor Of Greater Manchester) [Via Youtube]

Manchester City Council themselves have organisations set up to combat the ongoing crisis, one being ‘A Bed Every Night’ set up by Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, aimed at providing accommodation, and support for those sleeping rough.

Set up in 2018, Burnham and his charity, ‘Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity’ have funded over 40,000 nights worth of accommodation for those who sleep rough in the city.

The humanitarian crisis in Manchester is rooted deeply in the financial struggles of both citizens and organisations, and newer charities have felt the hardest hit by the cost of living crisis, one being Coffee4Craig.

Founded by husband and wife, Risha and Hendrix Lancaster in memory of Risha’s brother Craig White who was homeless in Cardiff and passed away in 2013 from a heroin overdose.

Moving into their first building in February 2020, Risha explains that a high rate of funding was something in the past and that the present-day isn’t following suit.

“It’s a very fine balance and headache at the end of the day, but we’re always available, and ready to support the community”

Risha Lancaster

“During lockdown, there was so much funding around because we were still working with people on the streets. We were thrown money with the different funding pots that we applied for and also, there were so many people at home on furlough who donated,” she said.

“We got ourselves into a false sense that this would last forever and we can do this. Of course, when Covid funding stopped all those kind of dried up, and people who had been donating for years had to stop their direct debits and couldn’t give it anymore because they couldn’t afford it.”

Despite receiving funding from ‘The Greater Manchester’s Mayor Fund’ every month, it barely touches the surface of costs the charity pays out.

“It’s a never-ending battle trying to get funding in from the likes of, people donating, trying to balance the books, and going out to campaign, just everything. It’s a very fine balance and headache at the end of the day, but we’re always available, and ready to support the community,” Risha tells us.

Coffee4Craig are currently running 365 days a year, offering services from the basics of advice and hot meals, to partnering with fellow organisations including On The Out who run a daily drop-in for those sleeping on the streets or who have just left prison.

Adult and children’s services in Manchester are currently experiencing a large waiting list for families seeking housing and accommodation, with band one subjects waiting around twelve months until they find a space.

For those lower down, it doesn’t look promising, with those in Band four being told the waiting list could be up to seven years, leaving families at risk of no housing and continuously stuck in the accommodation system.

“We’ve seen an increase in families who need debt advice who are working all the hours that god sends and still can’t make ends meet”

Joanne Dalton

Joanne Dalton, the strategic lead for Early Help Manchester has seen the crisis develop drastically since she first began working for the council in 1986, beginning her journey in the homeless family sector. Joanne discussed the newly refreshed homeless strategy in Manchester, and it’s due any day now.

“I think it’s fair to say that this time, the homelessness strategy is a development [and] much more people focused and focused on prevention because we know the housing market in the city is really difficult.”

The new strategy couldn’t come at a better time, with waiting lists for social housing reaching record numbers, leaving the demand much higher than what is available.

“There’s a massive demand for social housing, there’s over 16,000 people on the waiting list for Manchester Move. The private sector is incredibly expensive and lots of our families just cannot afford to get their foot on the property ladder, and I think the homelessness strategy now really sort of acknowledges that.”

Whilst Joanne confirmed that the families in temporary accommodation have been reduced by 13% from 3,194 at the end of last year, to 2,775 in May, the unsettled costs leave many families and organisations concerned for what is yet to come.

“We’ve seen an increase in families who need debt advice who are working all the hours that god sends and still can’t make ends meet,” Joanne says.

As Manchester’s development continues to broaden, it has come at a great cost to the homeless community, and if something doesn’t change, there will continue to be what is best described as a humanitarian crisis in the city.

Featured Image by Jane Carroll

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