Mancunians living in caves & long-abandoned WWII air raid shelter

Zardoz Greek zardos777 at
Sun Jan 4 17:43:35 GMT 2015

Living in caves & long-abandoned WWII air raid shelter: Six times official homeless sleeping rough in Manchester

'Hidden homeless' living in CAVES and air raid shelters as temperatures plummet below freezing

30 December 2014 09:33 AM
Jennifer Williams,
Many have been hit by a spiral of benefits sanctions and rent arrears - and some are suffering Victorian diseases such as trenchfoot

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Homeless caves of Stockport

The shocking extent of the ‘hidden homeless’ sleeping rough has been revealed - with many sleeping in CAVES and air raid shelters as temperatures plummet.

Many have been hit by a spiral of benefits sanctions and rent arrears - and some are suffering Victorian diseases such as trenchfoot.

Homeless organisations say 'frightening' cuts mean more hostels could shut, and numbers could soar even further.

An investigation by Manchester Evening News found insecure jobs, benefits changes and funding cuts have combined to spark a visible surge in rough sleeping.

Official figures show the number of homeless people on Greater Manchester streets is 24 - but charities believe the figure is far higher.

Stockport cave
Shelter: This Stockport cave provides shelter to a number of homeless people
Councillor Daniel Gillard has just concluded a Manchester Council inquiry on the issue, which spoke to dozens of homeless organisations.

He believes around 150 people are now sleeping rough in the city centre – six times higher than the official figure.

He said the authorities had more or less got a grip on the problem in 2009, but since then numbers have rocketed.

Manchester’s Booth Centre, which provides advice, activities, training and hot food for the homeless and those at risk of homelessness, said it was seeing around 170 people a week, a third more than two years ago.

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Meet George, who has been homeless in Manchester for 24 years

In Stockport, the Wellspring centre estimates a 60% increase in rough sleepers and believes there to now be around 50 in the town.

Both charities pointed to benefits sanctions as one cause.

One Stockport man told how he had been ‘sanctioned’ seven times in a row, meaning he could not afford his rent and eventually lost his flat – but cannot get another due to his arrears.

And people have been living in the Stockport cave revealed by Manchester Evening News 18 months ago.

Others have been camping out in the town’s old air raid shelter.

Although the council sealed it up for safety reasons last month, some of the bricks have already been removed.

The Booth Centre
Surge: The Booth Centre is seeing around 170 people a week, a third more than two years ago
Before Christmas, Stockport's precarious riverside warren was home to a girl sheltering with her boyfriend.

It also appeared the camp had been trashed and robbed.

When investigators returned a few days later, there were already more cave-dwellers, sheltered by a makeshift fireplace in a rocky cranny and blankets hung up on strings.

Across the town there is a network of hideouts just yards from public view that have long been used by the homeless.

A sweep by the police a few weeks ago found people living in the Dodge Hill air raid shelters, a mile-long warren on the edge of Heaton Norris.

Stockport cave
Stockport cave: It also appeared the camp had been trashed and robbed
Booth Centre chief executive Amanda Croome said she was seeing more people who have recently lost their job, while rent arrears, combined with benefits sanctions, are a major issue.

“We are seeing a lot more people with benefits problems, which leads to debt and problems with housing,” she said.

“That means food poverty is increasing, so we are seeing a lot more people who are dependent on the breakfasts we serve.

“Whereas before, most homeless people had benefits, now they have nothing.”

She pointed to the closure of Greater Manchester Police’s dedicated vagrancy unit two years ago as a significant factor – as its officers used to work closely with the centre to get people housed.

The Salvation Army’s 110-bed hostel closed under the council’s first wave of cuts - but despite the rising figures, Manchester council is now looking at cutting back homelessness funding further as it seeks £60m in savings for 2015.

Inspector Rik Byatt, of Greater Manchester Police, said since the begging unit was disbanded, the responsibility for dealing with rough sleeping is now shared across departments - meaning more staff than before are dealing with the issue.

Cold and damp: Ray Burton and his tent inside the cave
Earlier this month, the Mirror reported on a 52-year-old man set to spend Christmas in a cave - because he has nowhere else to live.

Ray Burton moved into his makeshift home on Llandudno's Great Orme limestone headland after he was told to leave his flat.

Ray grew up in the South Wales Valleys and things started going very wrong in his life when he was put into care at the age of 13.

He spent a period of time at the now notorious Bryn Estyn children's care home in Wrexham, where he says he was abused.

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