Discover more from The Mill
Why does homelessness keep rising in Greater Manchester?
Plus: Manchester City Council want your help becoming more cultured, and the North’s least favourite train operator tries its best to get worse
Dear readers — welcome to this week’s briefing, looking at rising rates of homelessness in Greater Manchester, which is putting local services under “unprecedented demand”. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority say it is a result of the government clearing the asylum seeker backlog at a rate local authorities can’t keep up with, plus a jump in the number of no-fault evictions in the city region. That’s below.
Over the weekend, Jack wrote about the turbulent rebirth of Bury FC. You may remember, earlier this year, we wrote about the club’s triumphant return to its spiritual home Gigg Lane after it was expelled from the Football League in 2019. That was a joyous occasion, what followed in the months since has been… less joyous.
Coming up this week, we look at Manchester’s waning Irish community (get in touch with email@example.com to contribute), and speak to Metrolink drivers about life on the trams. Last week, members got to read about where in Manchester the giant fashion house Chanel could be hosting their next fashion show. Mollie Simpson and Shikhar Talwar looked into why the fashion establishment found Manchester to be such a strange choice, and why, really, it isn’t.
Our latest podcast episode is out
If you’re reading today’s briefing on the move and haven’t the time, bandwidth or coordination to read Mollie and Shikhar’s great piece about Chanel, you can listen to Mollie and Jack talk about it in our latest podcast. Listen on your favourite streaming platform here, or on the Spotify player below.
🌦️ This week’s weather
Our local weatherman Martin Miles says this week will be cool and autumnal.
Tuesday 🌦️ Frequent showers during the morning, then turning drier with some bright spells. Heavy rain overnight. Max 13C.
Wednesday 🌦️ Windy with heavy showers. Max 14C.
Thursday 🌧️ Windy with spells of heavy rain and showers. Max 12C.
Friday 🌦️ Breezy with bright spells and showers. Feeling chilly. Max 11C.
Weekend 🌦️ Remaining unsettled with further rain and windy weather likely. Average temperatures around 11C.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook — daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
Want to get The Mill in your inbox faster than your neighbours?
From today’s sponsor: This briefing is sponsored by Brsk, a new independent broadband provider whose engineers are installing lightning-fast internet connections across the south of Greater Manchester. If you live in Stockport, Didsbury, Chorlton, Withington, Sale, Stretford or the Heatons (check out the ever-expanding map of coverage) you can now get your broadband via 100% fibre optic cables, with more areas like Wilmslow, Hale and Altrincham coming online soon. Brsk runs its own full-fibre network, which means crystal-clear video calls, lightning-fast streams and multi-device browsing — so several members of your family can be reading The Mill at the same time. Because of a Black Friday deal that’s running until the end of October, prices start from just £18 a month. Find out more by clicking here.
The big story: Why does homelessness keep rising in Greater Manchester?
Top line: Greater Manchester’s homelessness services are experiencing “unprecedented demand”, with the number of homeless people in the region on the rise. Last year, the official rough sleeper count increased for the first time in five years, to 102. By August this year, it had risen again to 145.
Context: While rising numbers of rough sleepers provide a grim barometer for the challenges facing Greater Manchester’s councils when it comes to homelessness, so too do the numbers of people these councils have a duty to help to stop them becoming homeless in the first place.
This is called prevent duty, and according to the latest figures, over 2,600 households in the city region are owed it by their local councils. Over 3,600 hundred are owed “relief duty”, this is owed to households that are already homeless and ends after 56 days.
If households are still unintentionally homeless and in priority need after that, they are owed “main duty”. Around 1,200 households are currently owed that in GM, per the latest figures.
What’s causing this? The GMCA says there are multiple factors driving up rates of homelessness. The clearance of the asylum seeker backlog is one example. A reduction in the notice period given to successful asylum seekers to vacate their accommodation (from 28 days to just seven) leaves them with little time to find somewhere new to live, and gives councils less time to prevent them from becoming homeless.
The Combined Authority say people being evicted from the local asylum system has the potential to triple the number of people at risk of homelessness in Greater Manchester.
We recently wrote about Khooshbo, an Afghan refugee who was made homeless after being evicted from an asylum seeker hotel in Manchester.
This trend is reflected in other services, namely those provided by local charities. Mustard Tree, a homelessness charity in Ancoats, saw their number of clients jump from 300 in May to 466 in September. Jo Walby, Mustard Tree’s CEO, told The Mill that 36% of the charity’s registrations in July were refugees. She also says the number of families accessing the charity’s food bank has risen from 1,500 in April to 1,729 in September.
A rise in no-fault evictions is also causing more homelessness, says the GMCA. The number of these Section-21 notices is at its highest in Greater Manchester since records began. Over the last 12 months, 436 households have needed prevent duty as a result of a no-fault eviction. Greater Manchester’s rate of no-fault evictions is higher than the national average.
Over the weekend, The Mill met Theresa Fanith. In May, she was served a no-fault eviction from her landlord in Miles Platting. She had lived in the property for 14 years. “It was the shock of my life,” she said. She was asked to be out in July but is still there, awaiting bailiffs.
She is now on Manchester Move, an app that allows people to bid on social housing, and says she has applied for 40 properties but is yet to have one accepted. She is thinking about moving in with her daughter, but if she does, she says she will be moved further down the priority list for her own property, so she is considering going into temporary accommodation. “I don’t know, it depends. I couldn’t share, I don’t think I’d like to share.” Theresa is 75 years old.
There are now over 5,000 households in temporary accommodation in Greater Manchester. Last year, we reported on Manchester City Council’s reliance on temporary accommodation to house those at risk of homelessness. We found the council were housing 2,500 households in temporary accommodation, meaning they account for about half of all the households in such accommodation in Greater Manchester.
Life in temporary accommodation is miserable and often lasts for years, as we reported:
The term “temporary accommodation” tends to mean the opposite in Manchester. The average stay is currently 441 days, or more than 14 months, and allocations data from the council suggests those moving on from TA into other forms of accommodation have often been there for around three years. At one TA complex in Openshaw we met a 62-year-old man called Craig who had been living there for four years after losing his home because of the “bedroom tax”. "There's mental issues, drug issues, drink issues in this block,” he told us.
The GMCA says reducing homelessness numbers locally will require help from national government. It wants to see local housing allowance brought up to match 2023 rents (the allowance has been frozen since 2020), more investment into homeless services from central government, and a faster implementation of the Renters’ Reform Bill — one of its key policies is to abolish no-fault evictions.
Some would argue that — while increased investment in homelessness services and tenant protections are required — a big problem affecting homelessness, particularly in Manchester, relates to planning. Only 506 of 23,364 homes built in the city between 2012 and 2022 were social homes according to Social Homes for Manchester Now, a new community coalition asking for 30% of all new developments to be social homes.
Bottom line: As it happens, tomorrow is the Greater Manchester Development Conference. Manchester City Council leader Bev Craig is speaking, as is Mayor of Salford Paul Dennett. Tickets have sold out — at £199 each — to people looking for insight into Greater Manchester’s property boom, which the conference's literature promises “shows no sign of abating.” It seems the same could be said for the region’s homelessness crisis, too.
Your Mill briefing
Manchester City Council has launched a consultation on the city’s cultural offering. It all starts with a spark is meant to help inform a new plan that will “ensure culture is at the heart of the city over the next decade.” The council stresses that culture in the city isn’t just giant, over-budget new arts venues (Mills passim), but also “cherished hobbies, social activities and art therapies.” It seems to be the council responding to concerns that they have prioritised big shiny offerings built by international architects over grassroots projects. As this letter to the Guardian attested a few weeks back: “More than £240m spent on an arts venue, while our village primary school (in Greater Manchester) cannot scrape together £12,000 to provide the services of an outside music service to give the kids the experience of playing musical instruments. The vision seems lost here.”
The North’s least favourite train operator — and that really is saying something — will go ahead with a timetable reduction between now and the new year. Avanti, which runs the west coast mainline service between Manchester and London, are going to cancel hundreds of services, “risking a repeat of the travel chaos suffered by passengers travelling between London, Birmingham and Manchester,” reports the Sunday Times. Ministers have signed off on the plans, which are apparently due to a shortage of drivers. Last month, Avanti was handed a contract renewal to run the mainline long term. At the time, Transport Secretary Mark Harper said they were “back on track”. Evidently not.
Bury Market is being partially closed due to concerns around unsafe concrete. The indoor market — built in 1971 — is made up of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC). You likely remember the fiasco around schools built with RAAC earlier this year, if not, we covered it at the time. Around 35 of the market’s traders are being moved to alternative premises. The outdoor market and fish and meat hall remain open.
Home of the week
This cosy one-bedroom apartment is nestled at the top of a converted Grade II Victorian Mill in Stockport. It’s on the market for £110,000.
Our favourite reads
“Relocating Shakespeare’s Veronese tragedy to modern Manchester gains extra impact on derby weekend,” writes theatre critic Chris Wiegand. Nicholai La Barrie’s production of Romeo and Juliet, replete with local accents, tracksuits and Asda bags, is as “teasing, tender, sultry as a slow jam”, though reducing the character list to emphasise the main roles leaves some aspects of the story “underdeveloped”. “The play never quite goes like lightning… but its closing call for more talk of our tragic divisions lands squarely with the audience.”
The day I met Bobby Charlton — The New Statesman
In this tribute to Bobby Charlton, the journalist Hunter Davies remembers early days as a trainee reporter for The Manchester Evening Chronicle, a newspaper that called itself the “deadly rival” of the Manchester Evening News, but which ceased publication in 1963. Even after Davies moved to London to work for The Sunday Times, “I continued to follow Bobby’s career. I identified with him in many ways. He was a grammar school boy, working class, from the north, just like me. Bobby was a few months younger than me: he was born in 1937 and I was born in 1936. I admired his football skills but also liked how he looked and conducted himself.”
Jeanette Winterson Has No Idea What Happens Next — The New Yorker
Jeanette Winterson, the acclaimed author and professor of writing at the University of Manchester, “burst onto the literary scene” with a “fictional retelling of her childhood in a working-class Pentecostal family with Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit in 1985. In this discussion with the critic Katy Waldman, she discusses media scrutiny, breaking the rules and creating a sense of self through fiction. “Everything that you can possibly get thrown at you as a writer, I have had thrown at me,” Winterson says. “Some of it was about my sexuality, my gender, my class. Some of it was about my attitude. It was very vicious for a long time. But anybody who stands up and says ‘This is how I’m going to tell it’ is going to get hit.”
Our to do list
🎥 Celebrate Halloween by going to a late evening screening of Stephen King’s classic horror film It in King Street Townhouse. Tickets here.
🎭 Beautiful Thing is an intimate portrait of Ste and Jamie, two boys from South London who strike up a friendship that becomes something more when Ste spends a night in Jamie’s flat, fleeing his abusive family. A co-production between HOME, Theatre Royal Stratford East, and Leeds Playhouse, it opens tomorrow and runs until Sat 11 November at HOME, get tickets here.
🔬 The Science and Industry Museum has a new exhibition, Stephen Hawking At Work, that takes a look at the objects in Hawking’s office, revealing the personality and work habits of the world-renowned theoretical physicist. It’s free.
🎨 Carbon Ruins is a new exhibition at Manchester Museum that was created by pupils across Greater Manchester, who selected objects that represent the change that needs to happen in order for the city region to meet its net zero target by 2050. It’s free to visit.
🎞️ At Oldham Library, there’s a showing of the 1961 French-Italian wartime film Prêtre, which was described as “the intersection of desire, religion and politics” by Roger Ebert. Tickets are £4.
☕️ The Art of Tea, a lovely bookshop/cafe in the centre of Didsbury Village, has free live music nights on the first and third Thursday each month. More here.
Looking further ahead? Members get our unmissable weekend to do list in their inboxes every Thursday morning.