23 May, 2017
In his first few days in office, the newly elected major of Manchester Andy Burnham has launched a fund in a bid to tackle the growing issue of homelessness in the city.
Homelessness has been a growing issue in Manchester over the last few years with the number of people living on the streets quadrupling since 2010. According to a Manchester Evening News article, published in January, rough sleeping in Manchester has increased a massive 41% in the last year alone with at least 189 people sleeping on the streets in Greater Manchester - although charities believe the real number could be as many as three times higher.
Mr Burnham has moved quickly to seek to establish the new scheme and the former Labour MP for Leigh has already pledged 15% of his £110K salary to the fledgling project which aims to eradicate rough sleeping in Manchester by 2020, a target that Mr Burnham accepts is "quite ambitious" but stresses is "urgent" and that "people need our help right now."
Whilst not offering services itself, it is understood that the fund will operate as a 'community foundation' with local organisations able to bid for grants. The fund will be aimed predominantly at schemes which aim to bring empty properties back into use, build specialised supported accommodation for young people and expand mental health and rehabilitation programs.
National homelessness organisation Crisis are the charity chosen to help set up the fund and their chief executive John Sparks said there were "solutions" to rising homelessness and Crisis would use its knowledge and experience to make sure donations were used effectively.
One possible model of reducing homelessness, which has been successfully trialled elsewhere (especially in Finland) is Housing First. The approach, as the title might suggest, involves offering rough sleepers a place to stay first and then offering them social services as necessary (as opposed to the traditional method of having to spend time in half-way houses and commit to services before tenants are offered accommodation of their own). The program has shown results wherever it has been rolled out but, unfortunately, is quite costly. Obviously, this is one area which Burnham's fund could well investigate.
However, as Mark McPherson, director of Homeless Link, says "ending rough sleeping requires many different solutions and the key will be to ensure that these donations, alongside public money, are used to best effect."
The fund can be found at http://www.gofundme.com/gm-mayoral-fund.