‘The Women Of Manchester Are Ready For This’

Manchester-based charity, Embassy, want to help women facing homelessness rebuild their lives, reports the Manchester Evening News.

When Sarah found the strength to leave her abusive partner she was at a complete loss of what do to next. She didn’t have access to the internet, and when she tried booking into a women’s hostel she was told she would need to name her abuser – something she was too frightened to agree to. Sarah, which isn’t her real name, eventually found herself a place at a mixed sex shelter – where she finally felt safe. But as a result of her vulnerability, she was groomed by a man posing to be her friend. He went on to rape her.

Terrified and exhausted, she felt her last option was to sleep on the streets of Manchester – a place where she quickly realised she was even more vulnerable. With nowhere else to turn, Sarah went back to the women’s hostel and agreed to name her abuser, leaving her in constant fear of how he might retaliate. After being placed on a waiting list for 15 months, she was finally given a council property and re-united with her two children. But the battle to get what she deserved left her broken.

It was after hearing Sarah’s traumatic story that Emmalee O’Brien, a Women’s Support and Resettlement Manager at homeless charity Embassy, knew something needed to change. Having been a victim of a domestic violence as a child, she understands how important it is for women like Sarah to have a place that is truly safe when feeling abusive relationships. She is now championing a project with Embassy to buy two properties, where they hope to permanently house four women, as well as providing them with the support they’ll need to obtain full-time work, and eventually save enough money to buy a property of their own.

Set up by husband and wife Sid and Tess Williams, Embassy started with a repurposed tour bus that was once used by the likes of Coldplay and Snow Patrol, to provide shelter for homeless men in the city. But when coronavirus hit, that option wasn’t safe anymore. Instead, the couple decided to buy properties and become landlords for homeless people looking to resettle – cutting out the ‘middle man’ of shelters. The charity’s resettlement workers offer six hours a week of vital training in shopping, cooking, budgeting and home management, in the hope to give people the start they need to rebuild their lives.

To help women like Sarah, the charity have now announced they are launching a female version of Embassy, which will look to provide the same concept to women in the city as they do for men. “There is very little provision for homeless women in Greater Manchester,” Emmalee said. “There are shelters but many of them come with risks and are problematic for women. We want to offer women a place they flourish. Currently you have to go as far as Liverpool to find another place like this.”

Many women become homeless as a result of fleeing abusive relationships, and Embassy want to reflect this by providing apartments that both are quiet and private, so that women can feel safe. “To be able to do that we will have two bedroom apartments with two women in each,” she said. “This stops the risks of friction and keeps it private. We house them from day one and help them find full-time employment. Then we want to help them save and get their own place.”

“We have got everything ready and the city is so ready. The issue now is getting financial support. I’ve met women who are ready and waiting for this. The women of Manchester are ready for this.”

Safe Place For Victims Of Domestic Violence Extended

A pilot service providing a safe house for women sleeping rough after fleeing domestic abuse has been extended, reports the BBC.

The Respite Rooms in Birmingham, which offers temporary accommodation and specialist support, has been extended by at least six months until March. Birmingham was one of 12 areas in England included in the £3.7m government-sponsored pilot.

Victoria, not her real name, was one of 10 women helped in the city since December. The government said Respite Rooms would focus on supporting women and a separate provision would be made for male rough sleepers. Victoria ended up sleeping on the streets after leaving an abusive relationship.

“I ran away from my perpetrator which was my boyfriend at the time,” she said. “I’d had enough of his controlling ways and what he was doing to me. He wouldn’t let me be with my family or see my friends. I didn’t know what to do, I slept on the streets for a few nights and then I got told by the police that I needed to move on.” Victoria, who has struggled with addiction, said it was “scary, lonely and cold. All I had was one small bag,” she said.

Under the scheme, Birmingham City Council commissioned Trident Reach to provide four rooms where victims can stay for up to eight weeks. It also supports rough sleepers experiencing violence and will help victims register with a GP and access mental health services. Victoria said it helped her when she was in a vulnerable position. “I was scared,” she said, “but I was made to feel safe.”

Domestic abuse was one of the main reasons people became homeless, the council said. “Without this service people would be at much greater risk from their perpetrators but also from other perpetrators who would potentially see them as much more vulnerable targets,” Joanne Spence, from Trident Reach, said.

Ulster Homeless Cause Local Disruption

The chief executive of the Housing Executive has said homelessness in Northern Ireland is as bad as she has seen in her career, reports BBC news.

Grainia Long said that 15,000 people had presented as homeless last year.

She also said the number needing temporarily lodgings from the Housing Executive went from 3,500 a year to more than 9,000 due to the pandemic. Ms Long was speaking after concerns were raised about the number of people living rough in Belfast. Some businesses have said there has been a rise in anti-social behaviour linked to drug addiction and homelessness.

Speaking on Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster programme, Ms Long said the Covid pandemic had a big impact on homelessness as existing hostels were forced to cut capacity and temporary arrangements like “sofa surfing” had broken down. She said: “There’s a huge amount of frustration and I completely understand that. My job, my duty, is to those individuals who need accommodation and so we have to make the very difficult decision to place people in hotels. We only place people as a last resort in hotels, we don’t want to do that.”

She added: “In relation to Dream Pods, at the moment there are currently seven placements in that establishment and we do want to move that as close to zero as we can.” She said multiple agencies were working together to try to address the issue. “We need to recognise that this is as bad as I’ve seen it in my career,” Ms Long added. She said changes will take place “but it will unquestionably take time”.

Bob McCoubrey, who owns Mourne Seafood restaurant in Bank Street, said he is considering moving the business from its current location because of problems in the area. The Dream Pods holiday apartments close to the restaurant are being used by the Housing Executive as temporary accommodation for homeless people.

Speaking to Good Morning Ulster on Tuesday, Mourne Seafood owner Mr McCoubrey said: “Our problem is the Housing Executive have taken over a hotel beside us and they’ve basically turned it into a hostel where people are arriving for two or three days and then moving on. They’re being bailed directly out of the courts and it’s just a chaotic management.” He added: “It’s young men – they’re aggressive, you can’t talk to them, frequently they’re completely out of their heads. We have drug dealers coming into the area, so it’s a completely different issue at the moment.”

Belfast City Council has said a planning enforcement case is open in relation to accommodation at Dream Pods. “Council has engaged with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive after receiving a complaint about alleged drug use and anti-social behaviour at this site, and staff from our Safer Neighbourhood and Outreach teams were tasked to the area to offer support,” a council statement said. “A number of initiatives have been undertaken to support businesses and revitalise the wider Bank Square area, and we continue to work with statutory, community and voluntary partners to support them in tackling these complex issues and ending long-term homelessness.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities said: “The minister is committed to addressing homelessness and will ensure housing services identify those at risk, provide support, and make any stay in temporary accommodation as short as possible. Responsibility for addressing anti-social behaviour in the area rests with the local council, the Housing Executive, the private landlord and police.”

Homeless Refugees

Hundreds of Ukrainian families have been left homeless in England after arriving on visas designed to secure them a place to live, reports The Guardian.

Since the end of February, at least 480 Ukrainian families with children and 180 single adults have applied to councils for help with homelessness. Despite the government insisting that the Homes for Ukraine and family visa schemes would ensure that refugees had housing, both are leaving people struggling when arrangements break down. The data exposes the cracks appearing in the Homes for Ukraine scheme, with 145 placements having ended in homelessness by 3 June. Of these, 90 ended because the arrangement broke down and a further 55 never got off the ground properly because the accommodation was unavailable or unsuitable on arrival.

Lauren Scott, executive director of Refugees at Home, said: “We are frustrated and saddened but not surprised to see placements start to break down. Expecting vulnerable, traumatised refugees to rely on the goodwill of strangers they have met on Facebook was always a risk. We urgently need a joined-up national fallback plan to help families whose placements go wrong. Across the country there is no consistent approach to rematching guests with new hosts, no standard way for Ukrainians to change their visa sponsors, and no single mechanism for moving funding from one host to another.”

Many local authorities are treating Ukrainian families as homeless rather than attempting to rematch them with new hosts, leaving them in hostels and hotels, just as happened with Afghan refugees. Of the 145 failed Homes for Ukraine placements, only 20 were rematched with a new host. Scott said: “It is a nightmare situation – the very one that we had hoped to avoid.”

Anna, 37, fled Kyiv with her husband and their three-year-old son when war broke out. They came to Britain at the end of March after matching with a family of four who lived in a large house in Northampton. After initially being welcoming, their hosts became less enthusiastic within a few weeks. “We didn’t understand what was happening because they changed their mood very quickly,” Anna said. Anna and her family were moved into an annexe. The host said he wanted a key to it and they agreed as long as he warned them before going in, but shortly afterwards he called the council to say he wanted to terminate his sponsorship.

“They didn’t explain anything to us,” Anna said. “They were not ready to share their house. They tried to get rid of us as soon as possible.” Her family were put up in a Travelodge for several days by the council, sharing one room with no cooking facilities. They had no idea where to go. “We were desperate and felt we didn’t have any other options than to go back to Ukraine,” Anna said.

Finally, after trawling the internet, they found Refugees at Home, who helped place them with another family.

They are still scarred from the experience. “We lost our home in Ukraine, and when we came here we thought that we were safe, but actually we weren’t and we lost our home a second time.”

The family visa scheme, which has been running the longest, accounted for 455 homeless applications. In many cases, families desperate to get their relatives out of Ukraine applied for visas but never had room for them to stay. The chief executive of the Refugee Council, Enver Solomon, said: “It is worrying to see that desperate Ukrainian families who have fled war, endured trauma and heartbreak, arriving here, entrusting their safety in our hands, to have been left to fall into homelessness. Ukrainian families arriving here need a warm welcome, safe housing and benefits, emotional support, and connection. We’re concerned that Ukrainians arriving on family visas are running into problems as not all relatives will have the space or the resources to support their family members – which is why there needs to be the same level of funding available to them and local councils as is provided under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.”

Lisa Nandy MP, shadow levelling up and housing secretary, said: “It is utterly shameful that families that have fled Putin’s brutal war have found themselves homeless here in the UK. The British people showed amazing generosity in stepping up in their thousands to provide the care and sanctuary that these people – many of them families with young children – needed and deserved in such awful circumstances.”

She added: “But the government has failed miserably to play its part. Ministers were warned about the risk of refugees becoming homeless on the day they launched the sponsorship scheme, but they were more interested in grandstanding in television studios than doing their jobs to protect vulnerable people. The government must urgently set out a plan to support councils to find safe homes for these families.”

Cllr David Renard, housing spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said: “Currently, councils receive no data on, or funding for, people who are coming under the family visa scheme. Some of those families present as homeless once they have arrived, but we are asking that they should be able to be rematched with a sponsor under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Urgent work is needed on how councils can work with government and the community, faith and voluntary sector so those offering their homes can be quickly matched with a family in need.”

A government spokesperson said: “More than 77,200 Ukrainians have arrived in the UK since Putin’s invasion and all arrivals have access to benefits and public services, as well as the right to work or study, from the day they arrive. The overwhelming majority of people are settling in well, but in the minority of cases where family or sponsor relationships break down, councils have a duty to ensure families are not left without a roof over their head. Councils also have access to a rematching service to find a new sponsor in cases under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.”

Cost Of Living Crisis Hits The Homeless

A man who was homeless for 25 years but finally got off the streets and into his own home, says he is in a desperate situation and is worried he could soon be evicted, reports the Mirror.

James, who asked to change his name to protect his identity, is happy to speak about the impact the cost of living crisis is having on him. Having been on the streets for 25 years, James got a place to stay in September thanks to Manchester City Council and a housing agency. But he says the pile-up of bills and debts has left him in a desperate situation once again.

“When I was on the street I was never in debt, but when I tried to get somewhere to settle, debts have gone through the roof,” he said. “I should be on £300 and odd a fortnight with my illnesses but I’m only on £200 and I’ve got my loans coming out which is leaving me in arrears. I’ve got a new flat and I’m in arrears on that, my council tax comes through and my electricity and gas have gone through the roof.” James says that even though he has a place to stay he’s back on the streets to prepare himself for the inevitability of being evicted. “I’ve still got my gaff, but what’s the point of living there when I can’t afford gas, electric and can’t get no help. I feel like I’m going to lose it soon, very soon. Since all them bills come in I’ve been on the streets five, six weeks, just to get used to it again, because I know it’s gonna happen again.”

Darren Dowling, who has been on the streets of Manchester for 17 years, says he has already seen new faces on the streets and expects more. The 52-year-old, originally from Wales, moved to the city for work at 17, but says he has been on and off the streets since losing his leg in an accident that left him unable to work, and then losing his flat in 2005. “Manchester has changed over the years, buildings popping up everywhere, but there’s still not enough places to put homeless in,” he says. “People are going private, and when they’re going private they can’t afford to rent and they’re getting kicked out. There’s not money to go around from social, the DWP.”

Sitting with Darren on London Road is Michaj Mankowski, a Polish man who came to the country back in 2019. He said he ended up on the streets after his ex-girlfriend ‘ran away with their child to Poland’. He said the experience caused his head to ‘explode’ which lead to him losing his welding job and eventually his home. He said that he has seen a steady decrease in the amount of people giving money to the homeless.

“It’s hard, five minutes ago I was crying,” he says. “It’s too much, people think we just sit down and ask for money, but no.” It’s very tough mentally. There isn’t much help, sometimes we have outreach groups giving food and sometimes there is nothing. There are some organisations out here that can help you, but the problem is getting to them because once you reach them everything is gone.”

And 24-year-old Joshua Plummer said he ended up on the streets due to his own behaviour and his inability to cope with mental health issues. He says he doesn’t know where he’s going to sleep tonight and isn’t too keen in using the A Bed Every Night scheme (ABEN) spearheaded by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham. “I’ve got PTSD anxiety and depression and staying in hostels random people come to your door asking for things, and I can’t deal with that. I’ve heard it’s the same with the bed for a night scheme and it only runs during winter,” he added. “It’s not nice being out here, it’s making me upset talking about it. I’ve got a place that tries to help me with everything but because of my behaviour it’s hard. I’ve applied for PIP but I don’t know how much I’ll get with that. It’s hard out here. I do feel forgotten.”

A GMCA spokesperson said: “A Bed Every Night was launched in 2017 with a clear ambition: to end the need for rough sleeping in Greater Manchester. The service offers shelter and personal support on an emergency basis to people who would otherwise be spending the night out on the street, and those accessing ABEN are given help with basic needs, access to healthcare, and move-on options. Twenty-one organisations across Greater Manchester provide accommodation including dedicated provision for women, LGBTQ+ people, those with pets, and people with No Recourse to Public Funds. Safety, assurance, and scrutiny practises are in place across all ABEN locations, with a view to ensuring that everyone who uses the service can get the support and the security they need.”

“More than 500 spaces of emergency accommodation are always available throughout the whole year to anyone who needs them, with extra provision put in place at times of greater pressure or risk, including the winter months. From April to December 2021, 2,418 accommodation placements were made in ABEN services, and 41 per cent of people moved on positively into other housing settings, the majority to supported accommodation and private rented tenancies.”

“ABEN has now developed into a multi-million pound project, with investment from all parts of Greater Manchester public services and national Government. It is one part of a wide-ranging series of measures to address the challenges of housing inequality and homelessness in our city-region, including our Homelessness Prevention Strategy, and Greater Manchester Leaders recently agreeing funding commitments worth £37.1m to support ongoing accommodation and support programmes for the next five years.”

Homeless Men Die From Overdose

Six young men have died from drug overdoses in Belfast in the last two weeks. They were all homeless.

One was Patrick McIlroy, a 27-year-old former mental health worker, who died on a Belfast street last Thursday. His cousin Martina McIlroy said her family was broken. The family said a secure drug and mental health facility was needed in order to support those in similar situations to Mr McIlroy.

Ms McIlroy told the BBC that her cousin had been sleeping rough for the last four years. “We helped him, Patrick tried to help himself and he just wasn’t at that level yet where he was ready to let go of it,” she said. “I think people don’t realise that they aren’t just addicts, they are ill and it needs to be treated as a mental illness. Because when you strip away the drugs and you strip away the addiction, it’s trauma and that’s what has led to these addictions.”

The latest figures on drugs-related deaths show that 218 people died from a drugs overdose in 2020.

“When we actually found out that Patrick was on the streets, that was soul-destroying,” Ms McIlroy said. “There were times when we were picking him up off the streets and we couldn’t bring him home because we have children and its two o’clock in the morning and we are driving around seeing where he could be.”

She added: “It was soul-destroying and, for him, he just couldn’t overcome it, so he then found more peace being on the street. He never got the chance to be the best version of himself, that’s the hardest part, and he was amazing.”

The Return Of The Vagrancy Act

The same powers contained in the 200-year-old legislation are being given to ministers under a new bill now going through Parliament, reports iNews.

Legislation from two centuries ago which makes it a crime to sleep rough is being restored to the statute book just weeks after the Government fulfilled a promise to repeal it. The Vagrancy Act of 1824 was repealed following a campaign by MPs and activists who claimed it was used to criminalise vulnerable homeless people unnecessarily.

But the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which reached Parliament on Wednesday, gives Michael Gove, the Housing Secretary, the ability to reinstate most of the powers contained in the Act. The Government says the clause in the Bill is only a “placeholder” which will be replaced before it becomes law. Ministers say police need the ability to crack down on aggressive begging.

One Conservative MP told i: “This isn’t going to make it through Parliament, there is clearly a majority against it.” Liberal Democrat Layla Moran said: “I am disgusted that this placeholder text seems to expose the true motivations of this duplicitous Government. They promised over and over again to fully scrap the Vagrancy Act.”

She added: “The revelation that they intend to bring it back in different words is a betrayal to those who campaigned long and hard for it but especially for the vulnerable people left out cold in the streets.”

Homelessness charities warned that the Government must live up to its previous promises. Kiran Ramchandani of Crisis said: “We did not campaign against the obscene Vagrancy Act for it to be scrapped in name only. So we sincerely hope the UK Government sticks to its word and ends the criminalisation of people experiencing homelessness as quickly as possible.”

Outrage At ‘Dinner Or Drugs’ Sign In Manchester

A ‘disgusting’ sign that urges people not to give money to ‘beggars’ over fears they will spend it on drugs is going to be removed.

The plaque, spotted just off Deansgate in Manchester city centre over the weekend, refers to ‘beggars’ using the money given to them on the street as being spent on ‘a fix’. The sign reads in full: “Dinner or drugs?” followed by: “Would you give a beggar a pound for a fix? Give to the box not to the beggar.” Beneath it is a metal box with a small gap in it for money to be slotted inside. The box was pictured on the wall underneath the arches at the Great Northern Square, in Manchester city centre.

The photo of the sign was first shared by Harry Jones on Twitter, who tagged the council and wrote: “This is f****** disgusting?” It is not known how long the sign has been up at the site. The post was met with fury, with one person responding: “This is f****** gross and so suss that there’s no indication what charity or whatever the money in the box goes to.” As another added: “This is a disgrace.”

Responding beneath the tweet, Manchester City Council wrote: “Thanks for bringing this to our attention. This is a very old sign and we definitely do not endorse this message, and we’ll be getting it removed ASAP.” The council have since come forward saying they ‘do not endorse’ the sign and will be looking to have it removed after the Manchester Evening News also brought it to their attention. They added they were not previously aware of the box or where it came from.

A Manchester City Council spokesperson said: “We were not aware of this box nor of its origin and we are grateful to have it brought to our attention. We do not endorse this and are arranging to have it removed.”

The council’s website gives advice to the public on ways they can help with homelessness in the city. This included encouraging the homeless person to make contact with the council, who may help them find suitable accommodation. The council also works with partner organisations, including Shelter, Centrepoint, Street Support and Manchester Move and encourages the public to volunteer their time or donate money to various charities that help tackle homelessness in the city.

Homeless Man Dies On The Street

A homeless man who wouldn’t part with dog died as it’s claimed he was ‘refused housing’ reports the Mirror.

A homeless man was found dead on the pavement in freezing temperatures after he was allegedly denied accommodation when he refused to separate from his dog, an inquest heard. Johnathan Ellerington was found outside a coffee shop in Hull last December with his Jack Russell named Teddy by his side. Jon’s cause of death was heroin toxicity, the hearing at Hull Coroner’s Court was told on Tuesday. The hearing has since been adjourned.

A week before Jon died, a woman had called around to help find him a place to stay. Sophia Jama claimed when she contacted Hull City Council and homeless charity Emmaus she was told there was no accommodation available because Jon was with Teddy. Friends, family and strangers paid tribute to Jon after learning of his death.

Hull City Council has since said that provisions are available for homeless people with pets, while Emmaus has also issued a statement saying staff believed Jon had access to housing before the tragedy.

Sophia said she stopped to speak to Jon after spotting him with Teddy. She previously told Hull Live: “I have been brought up to chat with rough sleepers and treat them as human beings. He had this tiny dog, like a Jack Russell. He had a bad leg and he was freezing but he told me he could not get in anywhere because of his dog. I didn’t think this was right so I called the council’s emergency number but they confirmed to me they could not find anywhere for him because of his pet.”

She continued: “A man from Hull BID told me they know the guy but didn’t realise he was back sleeping rough. He said he would try and help the man while I also contacted Emmaus who said they would try to find accommodation for him too. Emmaus said they knew the man who was already on a waiting list for accommodation. They are an amazing organisation who go out in all conditions throughout the year to help the homeless.” Teddy is now with members of his family. A fundraiser that was set up to help with funeral costs raised £1,670.

A council spokeswoman said: “We were sorry to hear about Jon’s death and offer our condolences to his family. We always encourage people who are homeless or are at risk of homelessness to engage with us early as we have a range of options available, including provision for people with pets. However, whether or not people seek or accept our services is a personal choice.”

A spokesman for the Emmaus homeless charity says Jon was not rough sleeping based on their investigations. They said: “Emmaus has been providing an outreach service to Hull and East Riding councils for the last five years. We conduct investigations across both Hull and East Riding and we have not found this individual to be street sleeping. We work hard to support all individuals off the street and would encourage anyone with information about people sleeping rough to contact us on 0800 066 2169 or by downloading our app.”

Trapped In The ‘Vicious Cycle’ Of Homelessness

Young homeless people across Merseyside are being stuck in a ‘vicious cycle’ of that is keeping them from finding a permanent home, according to a Liverpool homelessness charity, reports the Liverpool Echo.

Local Solutions, a charity based in Wavertree, has supported homeless people in the area for close to fifty years by providing them with temporary accommodation. Now they have said that young homeless people are being caught in a ‘revolving door of homelessness’ due to a gap between their benefits and the cost of living which stops them from finding a permanent home.

Jenny Snell, head of development at Local Solutions, told The Echo: “We’re really concerned about what the future looks like for the young people who have finished their time in our temporary accommodation.”

“We’ve taught them how to arrange their own tenancy, how to cook, how to clean, and how to do all of those things and they’re so enthusiastic to move on. But they can’t pass the affordability test needed to for permanent accommodation, and so they’re stuck in the temporary accommodation that we’ve provided.”

“And even then if they get their own tenancy and their own place to live, the chance of them surviving there and sticking with the same tenancy are really slim, because there is such a disproportionate gap between the benefits that they receive and the rising cost of living, for food, energy, all those essential things.”

These young people are not only unable to find permanent homes, but face an immense uphill battle with finding work too. Many places of employment require a permanent residence to even apply, then even if they have that there is a whole checklist that must be ticked off before they might be able to find a job.

Jenny added: “Ultimately, if they can’t pay their bills or if they can’t stay in the temporary accommodation then they’re going to fall back into homelessness again. It’s a vicious circle.”

“What we don’t want – and this really is a worst case scenario that we don’t like to focus on – is for them to turn to crime or be victims of criminal exploitation because they’re forced to make ends meet. Or to return to the street, we don’t want them to be trapped in a revolving door of homelessness.”

“The gap also causes a knock on effect to the queues of people who are desperate to find a place in our hostel or in our supporting lodgings. It becomes almost like bed blocking in hospitals.”