19 Comments
Apr 13Liked by Joshi Herrmann, Mollie Simpson

Thank you for this Jack, another great example of why I signed up to support the Mill. This is such an incredibly complicated situation for all the reasons you’ve done a good job of setting out.

I’ve spoken to Emma and must say that I immediately had concerns for her own wellbeing, whilst her initial intention was somewhat admirable she has a very limited perspective on the impact the camp is having. When I walked past on Thursday afternoon there was a man sat outside his tent smoking something in a pipe in full view of the tram stop and various families in the city centre for the school holidays. This is obviously completely unacceptable, regardless of where you place the blame for him being there. Ive also witnessed a number of fights happening between various members of the group as well as arguments over theft etc.

The council is in tough position because they are trying to say that being outside the Town Hall won’t get you help any quicker but clearly the current system they have in place isn’t quite working. However, this sort of thing can only be seen as perpetuating the situation and preventing man of these people accessing the legitimate help they need to get off the streets. Emma may claim that’s not her intention but it is undoubtedly what’s happening.

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Apr 13·edited Apr 13

I ran the City of London outreach service in 2012 helping end Occupy St Paul’s, I also ran other teams from Oxford though central London to Southend. You are witnessing the same. Nice middle class people with zero skills intervening in an area that they have no experience of. It is dangerous. Pls leave it to the professionals, & for god’s sake let workers get on with it without intervening. Public interventions generally inflame volatile circumstances. Tents & handouts are not an answer to this problem, indeed they often prevent engagement by those who need support - meaning ppl avoid difficult decisions needed to leave the streets. What’s needed is supported accommodation, fast access to detox & rehab, assertive action on street drugs & begging.

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Additionally, central government needs to revisit move-on from hostels & make an affordable rent cap - with benefits that meet the cost. Then there’s the steps needed to prevent homelessness in the first place, fully funded MH services, swift NSNO provision, floating support /resettlement workers and a long term commitment to wraparound services for vulnerable adults. I could go on.

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Spot on Joe. These are complex issues not helped by activists (from outside the area, as it happens in this instance) with limited knowledge turning up and shouting at people that they just need to try harder.

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This is indeed an example of irresponsible activism led by people from outside the city with their own agendas and a very limited understanding of a complex set of problems alongside an exaggerated sense of their own importance. It helps nobody and simply creates additional problems whilst taking up everyone's time and energy. Once these activists have moved on to something else, got bored or fallen out with each other (which is already happening by the sound of things), council staff and others working in the field (including in the voluntary sector) will continue to do what they were already doing - that is working incredibly hard to help and support vulnerable people in the face of huge challenges and a complex reality. That's where the people who really care - the real heroes in this story - can be found.

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However much I sympathise with their predicament finding human faeces and empty cans of high strength booze around St Peters Square now day to day whilst on my dinner break and getting harassed for money and cigarettes from the camp gives the impression its not organised just a collection of homeless people that are being joined by other vulnerable people. It currently feels more pleasant on Piccadilly Gardens 👍

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“It’s irresponsible activism,” one charity boss, who asked not to be named, told me when I rang around homelessness charities in the city. “If I thought shouting at Andy Burnham, [deputy council leader] Joanna Midgeley and [council leader] Bev Craig would get these people housed, I’d do it.”

Speaks volumes.

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A great article. Such a complex problem. The lack of housing stock, vulnerable adults unable to navigate the system, a broken asylum process all add to the problem and the solution is not just accommodation, it's support services, training, mentoring and links to employment schemes. We need to do better.

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Some of the comments on this piece show a bewildering level of ignorance. How can homeless people coming together to live in a camp be ‘perpetuating’ the problem? Just because a problem isn’t visible to you doesn’t make it go away.

The activists are not ‘from outside the area’ - it says in the article the main organiser is from Hattersley in Greater Manchester and used to sleep rough in the city centre herself! 50% of the camp residents are refugees from ‘outside the area’ themselves. This is city life.

“We have found that people sleeping outside the Town Hall have little information around housing options, after receiving their Leave to Remain status by the Home Office… This has led to uncertainty and hopelessness which means some people have no option but to sleep rough” The article uses this quote to say the camp is perpetuating homelessness. Er, no, the quote is saying that they have little information because the state hasn’t given them the information!

More importantly, when they gain refugee status they are evicted from Home Office accommodation and don’t have the deposit and references you need to rent from a private landlord.

It has taken me 2 years to find somewhere to live in Manchester that’s suitable that I can afford – imagine how much harder for someone in that situation.

Manchester City Council has actually given the residents false information – fake leaflets telling them they have appointments with the Mustard Tree charity, which the charity knew nothing about. Promises of accommodation in exchange for giving up their tents have also not materialised, they have simply taken the tents.

Being together in a group outside the town hall, with support, makes them much more likely to be able to access services than as isolated individuals. Trying to access underfunded, bureaucratic government services is always easier when we give each other peer support.

If these people were not ‘caught up in a haphazard, unmanaged camp’ where would they be?

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The help was always there Marion and will be long after the activists have gone. The organisers and many of those involved are from outside Manchester. Hattersley is in Tameside. You’re not wrong about refugees but that isn’t the Council’s fault. The Council have been working really hard to deal with these issues and this kind of performance is just a massive distraction with no positive impact on outcomes.

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There are people working in the voluntary sector and for the council doing God's work trying to help vulnerable people in a hopeless situation.

There are also people working for the council - and crucially, people ON the council - who see them as subhuman filth who ideally need to overdose or freeze overnight as soon as possible.

The latter group have had a lot of sway in shutting down intermediate provision and harassing charity workers over the last 10-15 years - some folk may remember MCC revoking permits for some of Burnham's early efforts, even - and as long as those people are still in positions of authority, as long as there's still a meaningful population who are keen to engage but prevented from doing so, camps like this will keep cycling back round

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There really isn’t anyone in or on the Council who sees vulnerable people that way Andy. There are differences of opinion about how to tackle the complex challenges involved, and the reality is that some approaches are seen as less helpful than others- but it’s really unfair to characterise people’s motivation in that way. Everyone wants to sort it out and see people helped- but the Council has to take a view about the best way to do that and inevitably not everyone will agree.

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Sending bailiffs round to destroy their stuff in 2015 wasn't helping vulnerable people. Pretending it was a protest wasn't sincere. Throwing people back onto the street if they're not at a hostel by 7pm, because the council in their grand Victorian wisdom think they need routine more than shelter. MCC have repeatedly treated the existence of homeless people as a personal insult, far beyond what can be explained by differences of opinion. Even Thatcher would wince.

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I don’t think your characterisation of those things is accurate Andy. Be that as it may, the last thing Mancunians need now is outside activists turning up and telling us we don’t care and we’re getting it all wrong. Other posters have described better than I can that this is all very complex and difficult and needs a professional partnership approach to tackle it. It doesn’t need shouty people coming into Manchester to set up camps and tell us it’s all very simple and we just need to stop being mean. It’s just waste of everyone’s time and achieves nothing.

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Not totally sure I understand the argument that the camp will stop vulnerable people accessing support services - perhaps I am being naive about what is obviously a complex situation but wouldn't it in some ways make outreach easier if there is a large, visible community of people in need of said services, where if somebody goes off the radar, it’s possible to check in with a number of others who might know what’s happened or where to find them? In the case of the 30+ campers who have been rehoused, obviously it’s true that they would have been entitled to support with or without it - but I can imagine that being so visible makes it easier to reach those individuals and inform them of how to access the services they needed.

Part of the issue here is surely that without the large scale investment in housing, welfare and social services that presumably all the parties you’ve spoken to want to see, there’s no one “right” solution - only many well-intentioned hands.

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I know what you mean and you’d be correct if the people in these camps were all willing to accept the help. The point is that it’s far easier for vulnerable people to sit with their friends drinking and doing whatever else than working with a charity to get clean and off the streets. So although the intentions might be good, these communities just encourage them to stay on the streets.

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The camp really isn’t helping Helena. There are well-established pathways for people to access help - including a rough sleepers team out every night. Creating another route, with outside activists effectively acting as gatekeepers and frankly getting in the way, is really unhelpful. On top of that, the camp creates problems in its own right, including conflict, violence and anti-social behaviour. It’s all unnecessary. People who genuinely want to help, as opposed to wanting to make themselves look good or have a fight with the Council, will support the partnership arrangements already in place.

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Burnham needs to refrain from using the rough sleeping crisis in his politicking - it achieves nothing. Ten years ago there was a good cross party volunteer led initiative going on in Manchester that had won over the confidence of the local business community and we need to get back to that place and try again.

Operator led strategies work, PR led political marketing campaigns don’t.

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GMPF never bought that water cannon did they?

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