Me and Gary met some other attendees at Emmaus Salford in the morning and then we all headed to the event at University of Salford from there. Beth Knowles and Ivan Lewis started the proceedings off and welcomed everyone to the event. Afterwards Paul Dennett, the Mayor of Salford, spoke and then Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, explained more about his plans to end homelessness.
Andy came across like a genuine guy and seems to have his finger on the pulse. The fact that he has set up the Mayor’s Homelessness Fund and donating 15% of his salary to it, is a good thing. I do have my reservations about his bold ambitions though because homelessness is such a complicated matter. Even if he only achieves 75% of his plans it will still be a massive achievement.
The next part of the event was the workshops looking at a draft of the Greater Manchester Homelessness Reduction Strategy. These were split into different areas – Respite, Recovery, Reconnection and Delivery Support. We were asked to join a group that we felt we could most participate in. I went into a group looking at respite as I believe that day centres have a very important part to play.
A lot of people in my group seemed only to be focussed on their work, area and local need. I was the only person in our group who had been homeless and I could see the bigger picture. The aim of getting all different organisations and people together is surely to share resources and work collaboratively for the greater good.
I was in a group with a guy from Citizen’s Advice and he made a really valid point – homeless people have rights and they’re not really abided by. The extra focus and work that is going on in Greater Manchester is what should be happening anyway.
Our group chatted about the proposals and challenges within the draft Homelessness Reduction Strategy. I think the three proposed hubs, providing people with access to food, healthcare, support and help with housing will be vitally important in reducing homelessness – wherever they are based in Greater Manchester.
Emmaus communities do a lot of things mentioned in the draft strategy and I believe we could play a bigger part in reducing homelessness in the city region. I would love to see a day centre run by people with lived experience of homelessness, supported by professionals with specific skills and knowledge.
We also got a demo of the Street Support App and it seemed like a great resource to help homeless people in Greater Manchester. Having all of the organisations listed who do work to support homeless people is useful to those working with people on the streets and the public looking to volunteer or donate goods.
I’m keen to carry on and attend future Greater Manchester Homelessness Action Network meetings. As someone who has experienced living on the streets I believe I have a lot to offer the group. If we’ve got something to give and can contribute to this work then I think it’s important we stay with the group and help where we can.