More than 200 volunteers will be helping out at a Manchester drop-in centre for rough sleepers this Christmas.
Lifeshare has trained the volunteers to work alongside medical teams, podiatrists, artists, entertainment, a wellbeing clinic, hairdressers and chefs.
Its drop-in centre offers homeless people three hot meals per day, new clothing and hot showers from December 23-29.
There will also be entertainment offered, as well as a games room and a safe place for people to sleep during the day.
Overnight accomodation is not offered, but the volunteers are trained to liaise with the night shelters to give people some direction.
On December 23, the centre which operates out o Charter St Ragged School on Dantzic St in Ancoats will be open from 2-8pm, and from December 24-29, from 7am until 8pm.
Judith Vickers, a Team Leader at Lifeshare, said: “We have been doing Christmas for over 25 years now.”
Seven churches in the Manchester area will also open their doors to homeless people over the Christmas period.
“The council has worked very hard- they meet with the coalition of agencies every fortnight where they discuss different things they can do to help,” she said.
Councillor Paul Andrews, executive member for Adult Health and Wellbeing, commented: “We have put in place a number of positive measures to tackle rough sleeping, including increasing the number of bed spaces available across the city. We have expanded our rough sleeper team and are working with all partners to help the most entrenched rough sleepers.”
Cllr Andrews said Manchester City Council is working in partnership with a wide range of agencies, including the voluntary sector, businesses, universities, community and faith groups to address the issue of rough sleeping.
“The Homelessness Charter was launched in May and was developed by groups working alongside people affected by homelessness, to give a coordinated focus to efforts to tackle homelessness issues across the board. Since the launch of the Homelessness Charter, nine action groups have been set up to look into the key issues for people experiencing homelessness,” he said.
While there would normally be about 15-20 plates of food being distributed each shift, Lifeshare is expecting to hand out 45-50 plates each shift during the festive season.
Lifeshare’s Ms Vickers said: “We have 45 volunteers per shift, if you see the size of our project and the operation you will understand why we need that many volunteers.
“There is definitely an increase in homeless people on the streets over the past 18 months,” she said, “This is mainly due to central government cuts and welfare reforms.”
Ms Vickers said: “Benefit caps will also be introduced in January 2017, so we can foresee families being evicted and made homeless by private landlords by the end of March.”
As of April 2017, the government is set to take away housing benefits for 16-18 year olds.
Ms Vickers said this is worrying as young, misplaced people, who may have been forced to flee their homes due to abuse or other problems, will receive no government assistance.
On the issue of homelessness, Cllr Andrews said: “Homelessness is a complex issue. The problem of homelessness is wider than just rough sleeping and Manchester is not alone in seeing a rise in the overall number of individuals and families who have become statutorily homeless.”
“There is no one cause for this increase, but a number of possible causes, including changes to the welfare system, which have inevitably had an impact on vulnerable people. Pressure on affordable housing and reductions to local authority budgets have also caused pressure on services.”
“The number of rough sleepers in the city centre has increased – many of whom find themselves on the streets as a result of alcohol, drugs, relationship breakdown or mental health issues,” he said.
Cllr Andrews said the council has launched the Big Change campaign which is an alternative giving strategy that asks people to donate money to a central fund – rather than give cash directly to people on the street.
“The homeless can access this fund quickly for the things that will really help them move off the streets. Giving cash directly to people who beg will sustain the problem,” he said.