Read Part One: UNEMPLOYMENT ROCKETS – click here
PART TWO: HOMELESS IN SALFORD
In Part One the Salford Star looked at the rise of unemployment in the city and the numbers of people claiming relief on Council Tax. In Part Two, we look at the rise in homelessness and how Salford City Council is proposing to cut services for those at the sharp end of that.
New figures show an annual increase in households accepted as homeless - a rise from 245 in 2010, to 277 by the end of 2011. Households in temporary accommodation have also seen a huge increase, from 111 in 2010, to 161 in 2011. There's also been almost 2,000 people added to Salford Council's housing waiting list, jumping from 14,492 at the end of 2010, to 16,476 by the end of 2011.
Despite all the new housing schemes in Salford, it seems pretty obvious that those who need new housing most are not having access to it. The Urban Splash Chimney Pot Park development springs to mind, as does the whole Broughton Green project. Only 101 new Council houses have been built, virtually in living memory.
Meanwhile, at the end of last year, Salford Council cut funding for single homeless accommodation at Brentwood and Lancaster House (see here), and attempted to cut funding to Royal Court in Winton, which homes people with alcohol related problems.
At the time of the proposed cut, we interviewed residents, most of whom came from living on the streets. We asked one of them where he was living before going to Royal Court and he replied… "A cardboard box…and I'll be back in a cardboard box in a couple of weeks."
For the time being, Salford Council has done a u-turn on this particular cut, but it's now hitting the Tenancy Support Service, which, according to the Council's website, `can offer help and advice with housing related issues including pre-tenancy support, help with Choice Based Lettings and support into permanent accommodation' for those with drug and alcohol related problems.
The Council proposal to abolish the service has been condemned by public sector trade union Salford UNISON and users of the service…
"Without the help and support of this service I would have been homeless two years ago" says one former service user "And this would have led to further drug and alcohol problems. As a result of the support I got, I have sustained my housing and my life is improving as a consequence. The consequences of losing this service would be horrendous."
Salford UNISON branch secretary, Steven North adds that the proposed cut is incredibly short sighted…
"Our members who provide this service offer a lifeline to those who are committed to helping themselves out of drug and alcohol addiction" he says "Their services cost less than £100,000 a year, which is nothing compared to the financial and social costs of people living on the streets with a drug or alcohol addiction. The work our members do provides a safer Salford for everyone. It isn't just their clients who benefit."
With that cut looming, plus all the other social and employment problems Salford has, it appears that Dickensian days are coming back to the city.
To cope with the poverty that Salford is currently experiencing, The Mustard Tree – a Christian charity that `works to improve and rebuild the lives of the homeless and disadvantaged' – has opened a new branch in Eccles this year.
The Mustard Tree gives out food parcels, clothing, furniture and training to the needy…
"There is a gap in Eccles which has pockets of severe deprivation and is under resourced" says The Mustard Tree's chief executive, Paul Wenham "We're unsure of how many people are living rough on the streets because there's been no street count and it's not charted. Anecdotally, the numbers are going up in urban areas.
"We give out food parcels and clothing to those in need" he adds "And we help them as they come out of homelessness with furniture, training, education, and other projects to help people re-integrate into the community."
The Mustard Tree relies on the help of volunteers and fundraising for the majority of its work. This weekend, for instance, Swinton's Marc Frobisher is walking from Northumberland to The Mustard Tree's main base in Ancoats (see here) to raise money for food parcels.
It does appear that public authorities are trying to wash their hands of the homeless, through cuts to services and by a new, heavier reliance on charity – or Cameron's idea of the Big Society.
Salford Council is currently trying to cope with massive `supporting people' cuts from the ConDem Government. But at the same time it's refusing to rein in huge resources allocated to prestige projects like MediaCityUK (£10million plus – see here), BBC Orchestra (£20million – see here), the `Ugly Sisters' office project in Greengate (up to £20million – see here), and various Peel Holdings schemes (anyone's guess - see here and see here)…
Never mind the Big Society…here comes the Two Tier Society. One for the moneyed class – and Dickens for the rest….
• We asked Salford City Council for a quote on its cuts to the Tenancy Support Service. So far it has not responded.
• We asked the Department for Communities and Local Government for official rough sleeper statistics for Salford. So far it has not responded.