Burnham demands action on homelessness

9 May 19

Greater Manchester’s mayor has called on public bodies to prevent a “homelessness emergency”.

Andy Burnham wants an extension of a special scheme that has helped 1,423 people in the last year while protecting the public purse.

The mayor said that it is “undeniable” that the scheme – called ‘A Bed Every Night’ – has made a positive difference since its inception in Autumn 2018.

Burnham told public, private and third sector leaders: “Last week parliament voted, rightly, to declare a climate emergency. But where is the declaration of a homelessness emergency?

“Surely, when hundreds are dying every year on British streets, that is exactly what is needed.”

In his speech on Wednesday, the mayor said that the scheme has accommodated 1,423 separate individuals, a third (480) of whom have moved on to a more suitable housing solution.

Burnham cited research by the homelessness charity Crisis estimating that one person sleeping rough for a year can cost public services £20,000 in emergency support.

But, at £32 per person per night, it costs £11,680 for someone to stay for a year in ‘A Bed Every Night’.

“When you face up to the fact that it costs public bodies a lot of public money to do nothing about rough sleeping, it creates a moral imperative for more urgent action,” he said.

Proposals for an extension of the scheme will be put in front of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority on 31 May.

“The reason why I call for the declaration of a homelessness emergency to tackle rough sleeping is that it would give a clear signal to public bodies everywhere to prioritise this issue and start acting preventatively.”

Government figures from January showed a huge rise in the number of people sleeping rough in England.

The Riverside Group housing association co-ordinates ‘A Bed Every Night’.

Eleanor Watts, an area manager at The Riverside Group, said: “I’ve been working in the homelessness sector and supported housing for the past 15 years.

“In that time I’ve worked across all ten of the boroughs of Greater Manchester. ‘A Bed Every Night’ is without a doubt the most concerted borough-wide effort I’ve been a part of and more than that it’s the most co-ordinated region-wide effort to help people who are homeless I’ve ever heard of happening anywhere in the UK.”

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