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  • Maddi Needham

The invisible people of Manchester

Updated: Jul 12, 2020

The extent of homelessness was immediately apparent when I moved to Manchester in the summer of 2019. Walking through Piccadilly Gardens in the city centre, rough sleepers are visible evidence of the many social problems consuming the area. However, this appears to be just the tip of the iceberg of a much larger homelessness crisis. As Manchester is a vibrant and growing city, it attracts those wanting to find a job and settle, as well as those who are already homeless, hoping for a fresh start in a new place. One study found that there was a recorded 32% increase in the number of rough sleepers in Greater Manchester from 94 (2017) to 123 (2018). However, the extent of this problem is said to be much worse, with one report predicting that 62% of rough sleepers are not recorded in official UK statistics. With the problem continuing to grow, it is important that not only the council, but society takes action to reduce the homelessness rates.

What causes homelessness?

There are a number of reasons why a person may end up homeless, specific to Manchester, the most common are:

  • Relationship breakdowns

  • Mental health difficulties

  • Loss of private tenancy

  • Domestic abuse

  • Discharge from prison

  • Substance abuse

Unfortunately, rough sleeping often comes at the end of a long downward spiral into homelessness, making previous problems even harder to resolve. It becomes a cycle that, without support, is incredibly difficult to break.

Psychological and physical effects

The psychological and physicals effects of homelessness are a matter of public health concern. Shockingly, the life expectancy of a rough sleeper is just 44 years old, about half that of the UK’s general population life expectancy (80 years). Individuals without a proof of address cannot easily access healthcare treatment, which in turn limits employment opportunities as they are not able to receive the medical and/or dental care they need. Not only healthcare, but individuals who are unemployed have a hard time finding a house due to their limited proof of income. You can start to see how homelessness can begin to spiral out of control.

Sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS are also prevalent due to injection drug use and high-risk sexual practices. The prevalence of mental health conditions in homeless individuals is high, with four out of five homeless individuals suffering from a mental health problem. In addition, homeless people are over nine times more likely to take their own life than the general population. As such, it is more important than ever for psychologists, researchers, educators and advocates to expand their understanding and efforts into putting an end to homelessness.

What can we do?

Although homelessness is one of the biggest challenges we face in society, it is also relatively solvable. It is important to firstly address that the victims of homelessness are people just like us. Humans who have fallen under hard times and need help getting back on track. Without this understanding, homeless people will remain invisible, and many will continue to fall through the cracks. The government have a huge role to play in meeting the needs of the homeless. To start, the government must improve access to mental health services, such as therapy and counselling, through increased NHS funding. Additionally, access to affordable housing and supported accommodation must become readily available for vulnerable people. Although the government have a key role in ending homelessness, they cannot combat this problem alone. The general population need to get involved by raising awareness and raising money to support charities working towards a homeless-free future. So, what can you do to help?

  • Fundraise – Take part in a fundraising event (with friends / colleagues) to collect money for a local charity who aims to end homelessness.

  • Campaign – Promote homelessness on social media, in an attempt to break the stigma and give these invisible people a voice to be heard.

  • Donate – Donate to charities who aim to end homelessness and who support those in need.

The Manchester Sleepout

As a part of an initiative I am a part of, where we are working to improve the lives of one million people by 2022, and as a way of contributing to the push in ending homelessness, COUCH Health have signed up to take part in The Manchester Sleepout on the 8th November. Each year, The event invites people to take on the challenge of sleeping out on the streets for one night to highlight some of the sufferings that homeless individuals face every night.

Although it is just for one night, I anticipate that sleeping on the streets will show us just how lucky we are to have a home to go back to with a bed, food, and hot water. The everyday things we take for granted will be put into perspective, knowing that for some, these are a luxury.

The Manchester Sleepout is taking place through the Booth Centre, a charity who is committed to tackling homelessness. The Booth Centre works towards positive change in the lives of people who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness, to help them plan for and realise a better future.

The decision to move off the streets and into emergency accommodation is a difficult one for many, due to individual’s vulnerability and mental health. Therefore, the Booth Centre, along with organisations across Manchester, have recently launched the Manchester’s Emergency Accommodation Minimum Standards. By 2022, these minimum standards will ensure that Manchester has the highest possible emergency accommodation available to help rough sleepers make the choice to move inside. It is hoped that this change will demonstrate a significant drop in the rates of rough sleepers.

We would be grateful if you could support us on this quest to end homelessness, by donating in any way you can to the Booth Centre: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/couchhealth

To keep up to date on our sleep out experience, as well as all of our other missions to save the world, follow our social medias:

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Instagram: @1mlives

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