Manchester Cavemen

I’ve posted a few times about housing shortages, and this article from Saturday’s i newspaper is truly grim, from England’s second city.

“Behind a dark doorway a the heart of one of Britain’s biggest conurbations lies a secret subterranean “Cave” where homeless men sleep in conditions that would have horrified Victorian social observers. The lair is close to the brightly-lit shops of Manchester city centre and a luxurious 5 star hotel. The floor of he pitch-black brick-lined cave, which stands across the River Irwell in salford, is covered with debris – food wrappings, empty cider bottles and rotting sleeping bags. Beneath feet crunch dozens of used drug needles. Among the men living in the cave is David Palmer, 38 who has been on the streets since 2008. “Two of us are regulars there,” says dDavid, who sleeps in a tend in one of the cave’s deeper vaults. “Water comes in through the ceiling when it rains and there are needles on the floor and rats. It isn’t nice, but there are not enough places for people to go. I’ve been on the streets in a few places, but Manchester is one of the worst places to be homeless.”

Angela Penny Barratt, who runs Street Support Salford and Manchester regularly visits the cave in the evenings to give supplies to homeless people. “I breaks my heat when I come here: sometimes I go home and cry my eyes out.” she says. “They come here because they feel safe, but it is dangerous.” The plight of the homeless in manchester led to a series of homeless “protest camps” being set up last summer in breach of a council legal ban preventing anyone pitching a tent without permission in the city centre. Manchester City Council has opened 2 empty buildings for the use by rough sleepers, taking people on referral. Concerns about rough sleepers have been heightened following the death of Daniel Smith, whose body was found in a burning tent beneath a railway arch less than a mile from this spot earlier this month. Two men appeared i court charged with his murder, as friends released balloons in his memory in front of Manchester Town Hall. A spokesman for Salford City Council said “When we are made aware of any site, our outreach staff make contact to offer assistance. However, we also rely on people engaging with the services offered. Unfortunately some people have refused the help available to them. We would urge the public to contact us should they be aware of anyone sleeping on the streets in the city.”

This is appalling, but sadly not new. Some years ago Steven King died on the Bristol docks when he was also found in a burning tent. He had refused help as he could not sleep in the hostels and claimed there was a lot of thefts. Other homeless people claimed Steven had been beaten up and set on fire, but as he had a drink problem the police claim he accidentally set fire to his tent by a cigarette.

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