Greater Manchester praised for 'impressive' reduction in street homelessness

Greater Manchester reduces homelessness by over 50% Credit: PA images

Greater Manchester has been praised for its progress in tackling street homelessness - but it did not meet its 'ambitious' target of completely ending all rough sleeping.

New research from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh found that there was an 52% reduction against baseline figures, from 241 in November 2018 to 115 that month in 2020.

The Institute of Global Homelessness’ (IGH) A Place to Call Home, launched in 2017, is the first concerted effort to support cities around the world to eradicate street homelessness.

An initial 13 ‘Vanguard Cities’ committed to tackling street homelessness by December 2020, with over half, including Glasgow and Greater Manchester, achieving reductions.

According to the report, Greater Manchester set the most ambitious target and overall had the largest reduction in absolute numbers on the streets.

Initiatives brought in because of the pandemic helped to accelerate success and "demonstrate what can be achieved with sufficient political will", researchers say.

Street homeless in Greater Manchester is still not irradiated, the report says. Credit: PA images

A lead co-ordinating agency, and co-ordinated entry to homelessness services alongside investment in "specialised and evidence-based interventions" were among the keys to progress in tackling homelessness.

The report found that reliance on "undignified and sometimes unsafe communal shelters" were barriers, and a preoccupation with meeting immediate physiological needs, and sometimes perceived spiritual needs, rather than "structural and system change".

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, director of the Institute for Social Policy, Housing, Equalities Research (I-Sphere) at Heriot-Watt University, said: "While there are clear country-specific challenges that need to be overcome, this first global initiative on tackling street homelessness has highlighted the need to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach, towards more specialised interventions that target specific subgroups.

"Appropriate services for women, children, older people and other vulnerable groups, as well as culturally sensitive responses to indigenous people and other groups affected by racial and associated forms of prejudice, are essential.

"The overwhelming emphasis on emergency interventions was clear in our findings, with support applied only when people are already in crisis, rather than placing greater focus on preventative models.

"Even predictable pathways into street homelessness from institutions like prisons and hospitals have seldom attracted concerted prevention efforts and this needs to be urgently addressed."

The other "vanguard cities" were Brussels, Rijeka, Chicago, Little Rock, Edmonton, Montevideo, Santiago, Adelaide, Tshwane, and Bengaluru.