Yesterday I attended a meeting of the Mosaic Justice Network. This network brings together christian organisations that are involved in social action projects in Manchester. It provides a great forum for exchanging information and gives us fantastic opportunity to understand each other’s projects.
Homelessness figured highly in our discussions – again!
There was great interest in Andy Burnham’s plans to relieve the misery caused by homelessness in Greater Manchester, and there was no doubting the sincerity of his intentions.
Moreover, a recent MJN Street Stories event, which Mr Burnham participated in, had clearly encouraged members of network in their hope that that groups would be considered to be a valuable part of the initiative to deal with homelessness.
In our small group we had an opportunity to discuss the work that faith based homeless shelters were doing in Manchester. For a long time it has felt that Manchester City Mission’s Narrowgate Project had been a lone voice in the wilderness. That is clearly no longer the case, and I was thrilled to find out more about new projects and more recent developments in this area.
Eventually all this optimism about the future of faith based projects for homeless people began to raise a question in my mind. How many of these faith based shelter projects had actually been visited by Andy Burnham? My question was initially met with a number of blank stares. One group member then announced that Mr Burnham would be visiting his project project next month. Others simply shook their heads. Later I was told privately by one group member that his organisation felt that they were being held at arms length.
We understand. As soon as Andy Burnham was elected, both Barry Matley, our Narrowgate Manager and I wrote to invite him to visit the Narrowgate. We had no agenda other than to let him experience first hand a project that had been working successfully for over seven years, if only to let him see what can be achieved.
For most of that seven year period, we knew of no other Manchester initiative that offered year round, general purpose emergency access provision. In the last seven years we have had just short of 3,000 people stay with us, including 455 in the last 12 months alone!
We appreciate that our Mayor and his team are very busy, and we are aware that we are not the only organisation trying to make a difference, but given the achievements of the last 7 years, it feels odd that we are still waiting for a visit.
After the MJN meeting I walked back though the city centre, noticing again the significant number of people living on the streets of Manchester. My thoughts went to Jesus’ statement from John 12:8 “the poor you always have with you,..”. This wasn’t fatalism, but rather a realistic assessment of the situation. There will always be poverty and inequality because those with power use that power to hold onto power. Greed, self interest, and ambition seem to perpetuate the status quo.
As someone who voted for him, I wish Andy Burnham every success in his quest to fix Manchester’s homeless problem. Are things changing for the homeless people in Manchester? Let’s hope so
by Terry Durose