Greater Manchester fire stations to be used to help homeless

homeless man sips drink Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Proposals include an early warning system to prevent homelessness

All 41 fire stations in Greater Manchester will be used to provide support for homeless people, as part of a plan announced by the region's mayor.

Andy Burnham said £1.8m of new funds would be made available for accommodation, health support and help in finding education or work.

It is expected the measures will be rolled out by the end of October.

Mr Burnham, who has pledged to end rough sleeping in the region by 2020, said they were "a major breakthrough".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Andy Burnham, seen here speaking to volunteers, pays 15% of his salary into a homelessness fund

The fire stations will be used to provide food or sleeping provisions during evenings, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) said.

Other measures proposed include:

  • Focusing on homelessness preventative work including an early warning system
  • Creating a Greater Manchester Good Landlord scheme to regulate private landlords better and improve the standard of rented homes
  • Considering more one-bedroom accommodation
  • Being "tougher" on people dealing psychoactive substances and people who are begging but not homeless

Mr Burnham, who pays 15% of his salary into a homelessness fund, said: "I have made ending rough sleeping in Greater Manchester a personal priority and these developments represent a major breakthrough on that journey."

The fund has helped support a 15-bed homeless hostel in Cheetham Hill, the GMCA said.

Mr Burnham also joined calls on the government to halt the roll-out of the Universal Credit benefit scheme. Data shows that 24% of new claimants wait longer than six weeks to be paid in full, causing many to fall behind on rent.

"If it goes ahead as planned we will see a much greater problem unfold in front of our eyes," he said.

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said the benefit system "lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives and raise their incomes".

"The vast majority of claimants are paid in full and on time, and are comfortable managing their money," he said, "but budgeting advice, benefit advances and direct rent payments to landlords can be provided for those who need extra help, and we know that over time people adjust to managing monthly payments."

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