The student-run homelessness campaign group Love for the Streets is to hold a series of events to mark Manchester Homelessness Awareness Week.
The planned programme, which will run between the 10th and 17th of March, will offer a range of activities from visual art to a sound clash.
The week of events will be kicked off on Saturday the 10th of March with an exhibition at the Whitworth Art Gallery featuring artworks produced by members of the homeless community in Manchester. The participating artists worked with students from Manchester School of Art to produce works spanning a variety of media, from tile making to street art, at workshops hosted by Love for the Streets over the course of six weeks.
Michael Riley, the Whitworth’s Family Engagement Co-ordinator, who has helped arrange the event together with Love for the Streets, praised the group’s “creative approach to challenge our perceptions of the lives and experiences of people who are homeless”
He added: “Homelessness in Manchester has unfortunately been on the increase over the past few years and requires creative responses to address the issue. The Whitworth, being open and for everyone, feels like the ideal place to host this discussion.”
Each artist has been supported at some point either by charity projects including Cornerstone, Mustard Tree, and the Booth Centre, or by one of Greater Together Manchester’s night shelters. Visitors will also be able to view films showcasing the work of these charities, and partake in interactive workshops.
The exhibition will also feature the work of acclaimed artist and homelessness campaigner David Tovey, whose work has been displayed the Tate Modern. Once homeless himself, he is the founder of the One Festival of Homeless Arts, which has been held annually in London since 2016, with Manchester due to host some of the festival’s events in June 2018.
Love for the Streets aims to use the events to raise awareness of homelessness among students across Manchester, open a dialogue on potential solutions, and inspire students to take action themselves by volunteering with local homelessness charities. They are working in coordination with the Big Change MCR Fund, which aims to provide homeless people with the essentials for getting back on their feet, from deposits for new accommodation to clothing for job interviews.
Manchester Homelessness Awareness Week comes not long after sub-zero temperatures and snowy conditions brought by the “Beast from the East” saw Manchester City Council pledge immediate emergency shelter during the cold snap to all rough sleepers. Several mosques in the Manchester area also opened their doors to those in need.
Monday the 12th of March and Wednesday the 14th of March will see two conference-style events entitled “Let’s Talk Homelessness”, offering attendees the chance to discuss practical community solutions. The first event seeks to challenge stereotypes and preconceptions surround homelessness through conversations with formerly homeless people, while the second aims to attract business-minded students and discuss the potential of social entrepreneurship to have a positive impact in the fight against homelessness.
Thursday the 15th of March will see a soundclash featuring the Manchester-based collective Leanin’ at Cubo in Fallowfield, where clothing donations going to local homelessness charities will also be accepted.
The week of events will culminate on Saturday the 17th with a “takeover” at Owens Park in Fallowfield, featuring activities representing each of the events from the past seven days, including virtual reality experiences from the soundclash and some of the art featured at the Whitworth at the start of the week. There will also be vintage pop-ups, live music, and stalls offering information about getting involved in volunteering.
Greater focus has recently been turned to homelessness in Greater Manchester as mayor Andy Burnham has prioritised bringing an end to rough sleeping in the city by 2020 and finding long-term solutions for the issue.
In January of 2018, Burnham said that statistics showing that rough sleeping in Manchester had risen by 42 per cent between 2016 and 2017 portrayed a city facing “a humanitarian crisis”.
The Mayor’s Homelessness Fund, which offers grants to projects working to end rough sleeping in Manchester, had raised £135,000 by December 2017. However, charities such as Centrepoint have drawn attention to the need to also address the issue of “hidden homelessness”, which disproportionately affects young people.
Crisis estimates that this description accounts for as many as 62 per cent of those classified as homeless across the country, relying on couch-surfing or even sleeping on public transport just to have a roof over their heads at night.