Danny Collins, an ex-army veteran who spent four years living on the streets around Manchester and Birmingham, is to start giving tours of the city this weekend as part of the Invisible Manchester initiative.
Aiming to combat the stigma of homelessness with his words, Danny, now a successful poet, takes visitors ‘Off the Cobbles’ to spots around the city where he used to sleep rough and spend time during his period on the streets.
This includes sites such as St Mary’s Catholic Church, colloquially known as the ‘Hidden Gem’ of Manchester, in addition to often unnoticed pieces of street art that characterise the creative Northern Quarter.
The alternative tour also features pieces of Danny’s own poetry, which focuses on his personal experiences with homelessness and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Despite having performed in prestigious venues around Manchester, including the iconic Cathedral and Albert Hall, the 62-year-old said he wanted homeless people to “show their Manchester” as a means to get off the street.
“A friend of mine — once an accountant who handled millions of pounds a year — ended up on the street for 20 years after his wife died. He just couldn’t cope”, Danny told our tour group.
“He once said to me that, in the morning, when you wake up on the street, even the statues are looking down on you. When I woke up in Piccadilly Gardens one morning, Queen Victoria was looking down on me. That really resonated with me.”
In Manchester, as with the rest of the UK, homelessness is on the rise, with the number of rough sleepers in the region increasing by a fifth from 2017 to 2018. This contributes to a 13-fold increase in the city since 2010, despite Mayor Andy Burnham promising in his electoral manifesto to eradicate rough sleeping by 2020.
Last weekend, two men, believed to be homeless, passed away on the streets of Manchester city centre.
It is organisations like the Booth Centre that have helped people like Danny to get off the streets and into their own home, working with each individual to “develop a purpose, be that employment, education or positive social activities, and to develop friendships which will support them in rebuilding their lives.”
Danny spent his first night in his new home on Christmas Eve, 2016.
Talking to The Mancunion, Alice Sparks, the director of Invisible Manchester expanded on their progress: “I am completely blown away by how absolutely fantastic Danny has been and what a remarkable response we have been having.”
“I’m so happy it has finally come together — I never actually envisioned this response, and it all feels very surreal!”
Costing £10, the tours will be available on Saturdays at 11am and Sundays at 2pm. All proceeds will go towards funding and expanding the Invisible Manchester project, and paying Danny for his service. Any profits will also help to fund the publishing of Danny’s first poetry book.
You can find further information online.