Riverside Manager awarded for “Everybody In” allocation during COVID-19 lockdown
A Riverside housing manager who has been helping rough sleepers to find hotels to stay in during the coronavirus lockdown, has been awarded the prestigious High Sheriff of Greater Manchester Award.
Kath Meighan has been helping manage emergency accommodation for homeless people at the Holiday Inn Express in Gorton, Manchester.
This supported service was set up as part of the government’s “Everybody In” campaign to protect rough sleepers from the spread of the virus.
She was given the special recognition from the High Sheriff of Greater Manchester Eamonn O’Neal, after being nominated by the local authority.
Kath said: “Receiving this award is amazing but it’s not just for me, it is thanks to all of the team working there. Our success is testament to the hard work from my colleagues at Riverside, together with security and hotel staff there, making it a positive collaborative effort from everyone.
“We have such a diverse team from young to mature, BAME staff and people with lived experience of homelessness. I’m very honoured to receive the award.”
People staying in the hotel have slept rough for many years and have varying complex needs for drug and alcohol misuse, so it was vital that support was available to them through specialist mental health and addiction services to help them during the lockdown.
What next for those sleeping rough in Manchester
The initiative started in late March, with more than 250 people who had been sleeping rough were put up in 12 premises – mostly hotels – around Manchester to help keep them safe from Covid-19.
The Council says that many have made real progress in improving their personal circumstances during that time, thanks to the stability and security on offer and increased engagement with the support available.
This has included addressing addictions to drugs or alcohol, and being linked into GPs for other health issues.
Unfortunately with government funding for the “Everybody In” scheme finishing at the end of June, there has been a lot of uncertainty about what would happen next.
Manchester City Council pledged it would do everything possible to prevent anyone who had been accommodated having to return to the streets, and to try and provide a housing solution for everyone.
Regrettably though, out of the 200 homeless people put up in the Manchester hotels, forty-seven were asked to leave or have left voluntarily due to problems adapting to living in the hotels.
The Council confirmed that those being asked to leave had been involved in incidents involving drug use, violence or antisocial behaviour. Whilst the others are believed to have abandoned their rooms after finding it difficult to adapt to life off the streets or adhering to rules surrounding physical distancing and a no smoking policy within rooms.
Their whereabouts now are unknown as the council only records where those in temporary housing are staying.
Richard Leese, the council’s leader, said: “At the best of times it is extremely challenging to support people dealing with issues such as poor mental health, addiction or other complex needs, not taking into account the extreme situation we are faced with.
“Our staff are working very hard to manage what is a very difficult situation, but we are also reliant on our residents behaving responsibly and sticking to social distancing guidelines, not just for their own benefit but for those around them.”
The council’s efforts are part of a £5m scheme set up by Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), which covers 10 local authorities within the region, to house rough sleepers and people who had been living in shared accommodation during the outbreak.
GMCA says it exceeded its target by giving 1,140 people a place to self-isolate.
There have been other difficulties in implementing the programme. In March the Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, said he was “extremely disappointed” after Britannia Hotels evicted the homeless people it had agreed to accommodate.
Below, a previously rough sleeper Simon talks to the BBC Radio Talk about his experience of homelessness and the security provided to him during the Covid-19 pandemic. Simon had been sleeping in shop doorways in Manchester for three years when the coronavirus pandemic reached the UK. Suddenly, as the government released emergency funding to get people sleeping rough off the streets during lockdown, Simon found himself being offered an en suite room at the Holiday Inn. This is the story of the unprecedented operation to get the country’s street homeless inside – told through one hotel in Manchester. The experience has been transformational for some, including Simon – proof that radical change can happen and happen fast. Government ministers say this is an opportunity to end rough sleeping “for good”. But homelessness charities are warning that as emergency funding runs out, people will end up back on the streets.