The homeless charity Shelter has released a report naming Salford as the local authority with the second highest rate of homelessness in the North West.
The report claims that at the beginning of December 2016, as the cold weather set in, there were a total of 325 people sleeping rough or living in temporary accommodation.
This follows on from government statistics released in 2015 which showed that rough sleeping has risen by 14% in Salford, 63% in Manchester and 30% nationally.
For Terry Durose, Director of the Manchester City Mission, these figures are due to legislative changes by central government.
“There’s been many changes to the UK’s benefit system,” he said, “and austerity has meant there’s less money to provide services. We may even be seeing a knock-on effect of the bedroom tax.”
For Michael Thompson, a support worker for Lifeshare, the dramatic rise in homelessness began with the imposition of harsher sanctioning by the Department of Work and Pensions.
He said: “There’s a massive lack of advocacy as a result of the cuts in Manchester and Salford. People are not able to represent themselves properly, which leads them to be sanctioned and lose their benefits.”
A project coordinator for a local charity, who asked to remain anonymous, described how the increased pressure placed on hostels by the rising number of homeless people had fostered a culture of bullying and violence among residents.
As a result, some of her clients were turning down beds in favour of sleeping on the streets: “If you put lots of people who have additional support needs like drug and alcohol addiction in what is effectively one room, it’s inevitable there are going to be fights and people are going to feel in danger.”[pullquote]”There’s a massive lack of advocacy as a result of the cuts in Manchester and Salford. People are not able to represent themselves properly, which leads them to be sanctioned and lose their benefits.” – Michael Thompson[/pullquote]
Julie Boyle, a criminal justice support worker for Lifeshare, attributes much of the violence within the Greater Manchester homeless community to this year’s ban on the potent cannabinoid Spice.
She said: “You have homeless people who have stockpiled Spice before the ban and now they’re trying to sell it, which causes conflict. At this point Spice causes 99.9% of our problems.”