A group of homeless people have launched an appeal against their eviction from a disused city centre building.
Manchester Activist Groups, which describes itself as a group of 30 formally homeless individuals living and working together whilst trying to make legislative change, is occupying the former Pizza Express building.
The group currently includes two autistic people, and Chris Blaine, a new but very active member.
Mr Blaine is a part of the occupation of the building which still has a working kitchen, toilets and hot showers. It is set to be renovated but will not re-opened for 18 months.
“I don’t see why we can’t stay throughout the winter months,” said Mr Blaine. “We are going to lose the building, we are going to get thrown out eventually, but our campaign is that this building is empty.”
According to the homeless link charity, in the year 2015 homelessness levels rose across the UK by 30 per cent, with approximately 3,569 people counted sleeping rough in 2015. Out of the North Western cities counted, Manchester had the highest rate of homeless people, peaking at 70. The second highest group was Salford at 16, still in the greater Manchester area.
The group occupy unused buildings in the Manchester area. Previous locations including the Ducie Bridge pub,from which they were evicted.
The group launched an appeal to stay in the building, which has successfully lead to their eviction being postponed. However, their appeal was returned to them due to some paperwork mistakes, and is to be lodged today.
Mr Blaine said: “Until the government accept that austerity is killing people, a lot more people will inevitably end up on the street.”
Upon their eviction, the group will have nowhere else to go. Mr Blaine explained that no extra support will be provided for the group upon their eviction.
“Nothing’s been offered to us,” he said. “We’ve got one or two people going through the system at the moment using different charities, different organisations, but Manchester council are making no offers of accommodation.”
He has been part of the group for the past seven months. After his release from Strangeways prison, he was homed in Blackburn, where he had no connections, friends or family. Mr Blaine said: “They’ll put you in a hostel anywhere in Greater Manchester, you don’t get a say in anything, you’re just banged into a home and forgotten about.”
Having experienced both prison and the Manchester City Council hostel system for the homeless, Mr Blaine said: “The hostel system is, in my view, more dangerous than the prison system. Your exposure to drugs, violence and abuse is just off the charts, and people just don’t want to live there. They claim that all these places are supporting shared housing but they’re just not. The only support you get is you get told the rules.”
Mr Blaine believes the ‘only solution’ to Manchester’s homeless problem is the Manchester City Council providing safe housing spaces, not shared hostel spaces for those without a home.
- We asked passers-by what they thought of plans to evict the group from the disused Pizza Express.