Red Door and homelessness in Bury
Homelessness is big news in Greater Manchester at the moment, thanks mainly to the new Mayor of the region Andy Burnham. Recent announcements of measures to help, alongside the new Homelessness Fund are very welcome. But what is the reality of homelessness across Greater Manchester away from the bright lights of city centre Manchester? As new MP for Bury North, James Frith recently went along to the Bury Red Door project to find out first hand about the problems faced by homeless and vulnerable adults.
Red Door is a small project in Bury town centre, which is part of the social welfare charity Caritas Diocese of Salford. They help rough sleepers, homeless and vulnerable adults, including those with drug and alcohol dependencies, and mental health issues. The project provides much needed support in finding temporary and permanent accommodation, and help their clients to access and appeal benefits, and offer help with other services. They also provide a friendly drop in centre where beneficiaries can have a shower, wash their clothes, and socialise with other people.
But there are significantly fewer services available for single homeless people in Bury, particularly for rough sleepers, than in neighbouring areas, such as Manchester and Burnley. Even when the local council does accept a responsibility for a homeless single person, the accommodation options are very limited. In terms of emergency accommodation, the nearest hostels are in Rochdale and Salford, and are often difficult for people from Bury to access. The local connection rule often means that accommodation outside Bury in general is very hard to access. People under 35 years old cannot access private rented accommodation due to Housing Benefit regulations and lots of private landlords are pulling out of the sector, so limiting options even further.
Punitive benefit sanctions are affecting more and more of Red Door clients, and project staff are spending more time supporting clients in appeals against benefit decisions. With the impending introduction of Universal Credit this situation is only going to get worse.
On just one day recently, three new rough sleepers turned up at the Red Door project and were not able to be helped by the local council. As winter approaches it is more urgent than ever that additional provision is made available in Bury for homeless single people to be able to have a roof over their heads and avoid having to sleep on the streets or on a friend’s sofa. During James’ recent visit, he met and was subsequently able to help one of the Red Door clients who was sleeping rough. That is obviously great for that person, but it should not take the intervention of an MP to get results. Shelter is a basic human right.
But in Bury today the options for shelter are limited for an increasing number of people.