Manchester launches Housing First scheme as rough sleeping row erupts

The city council is consulting on plans to fine those living on the streets alongside new plans to follow in Finland’s footsteps to eradicate rough sleeping

Manchester officials are making moves to end rough sleeping but are under fire for plans to fine rough sleepers £100.

The city’s Mayor Andy Burnham lifted the lid on the city’s new Housing First project this week that promises to get up to 400 people off the streets and into housing alongside support for their needs over the next three years.

The £7.6m project will see housing association Great Places Housing Group work with the council to provide the necessary homes using the work that Finland has done on the project as a blueprint – check out the latest Big Issue magazine for more on that.

Where the scheme, which is also being trialled in the West Midlands and on Merseyside, will differ slightly from the Finnish model is that it will use private sector and social housing rather than purpose-built apartment blocks.

He also gave an update on his A Bed Every Night scheme – Manchester’s initiative to offer rough sleepers protection from the elements this winter – which has now reportedly sheltered 1,400 and led to 300 people being moved into permanent housing.

Burnham, who has lofty ambitions to end rough sleeping in the city by 2020, said: “Alongside the tremendous progress made by our A Bed Every Night and Social Impact Bond programmes, Housing First will ensure hundreds of people who currently live precarious lives will be helped to begin their recoveries and move away from homelessness. But this is a crisis situation – much needs to be done and quickly. Let’s get to work.”

However, the Manchester Housing First launch has been marred by a row over plans to fine rough sleepers £100.

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Manchester City Council is currently consulting on the introduction of Public Space Protection Order which could see fixed penalty notices imposed for “occupying a tent or temporary structure in a manner that which is likely to create a health and safety risk for other people”.

Another proposed offence is “continuing to obstruct a building entrance/exit, stairwell or highway after being asked to move” alongside infractions for drugs and alcohol, carrying a maximum fine of £1,000.

Councillor Nigel Murphy, deputy leader of Manchester City Council, said: “It’s essential that everyone is able to enjoy public spaces in our city centre which are safe and welcoming. Nobody should have to put with behaviour which has a negative impact on them or their environment.

“It’s important to note that these restrictions are targeted at specific anti-social behaviours, some quite general in nature, not at particular groups of people.”

But opposition leader, former Withington Lib Dem MP John Leech, disagrees and has vowed to oppose the plans “until the end of time”.

“If this isn’t social cleansing then I’ve got no idea what is and I want to make it absolutely crystal clear; Liberal Democrat councillors will oppose this until the end of time,” he said.