Red tent camp outside Manchester Town Hall 'hasn't helped anyone' council says

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The ‘camp’ initially started as a protest according to its organiser

A camp of red tents outside Manchester Town Hall ‘hasn’t helped anyone’, the council has said. It sprung up on March 23 – initially as a protest, but has since morphed into a ‘community’, according to organiser Emma Leyla Mohareb.  Tents donated to homeless people have provided better protection from the wet and cold weather the city has seen since Easter.

Emma told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the camp will be in place until the town hall agrees to ‘a deal for a solution to open buildings until four new hostels come on’. 

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“They have two buildings that are used for staff training but that’s it,” she added. “They could put some mattresses in there.”

The deputy council leader said the authority is ‘working hard to reduce rough sleeping as part of a wider mission to eradicate homelessness’. Cllr Joanna Midgley, a Labour politician representing Chorlton Park, raised concerns about the safety of the so-called ‘protest camp’. 

“At present there is a protest camp outside the town hall which was established by activists who are not themselves homeless, but which other vulnerable people, including refugees and UK nationals who were rough sleeping, have been caught up in,” she said in a statement to the LDRS.

“This has brought with it a range of challenges, including political graffiti about a wide range of issues on the Town Hall and anti-social behaviour. Our concern throughout has been to sort out suitable temporary accommodation for anyone in the camp who is genuinely homeless and willing to accept the help offered.”

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Cllr Midgley said so far, 38 people sleeping at the camp camp have been supported into accommodation because that help ‘was always available to them and not because they camped outside the town hall’. 

The camp of red tents seen outside the Town Hall on Monday (April 8). Image: LDRS. Free for use by all partners.The camp of red tents seen outside the Town Hall on Monday (April 8). Image: LDRS. Free for use by all partners.
The camp of red tents seen outside the Town Hall on Monday (April 8). Image: LDRS. Free for use by all partners. | LDR

Her statement added: “Where refugees have travelled to Manchester from other parts of the country, we are encouraging them to accept the support available elsewhere. While this city will always play its part in tackling the national homelessness crisis, it is clearly not realistic for those behind this camp to lay the responsibility for solving this national crisis at Manchester’s door.

“We have engaged with the camp’s organisers to explain the support available and our concerns about the camp but they are refusing to leave until a series of unreasonable demands – some entirely unrelated to homelessness – are met.”

Cllr Midgley said ‘the creation of this encampment hasn’t helped anyone – neither the homeless people within it nor the wider community’, adding: “It is not a safe or suitable environment for those within the camp. There are growing concerns about the safety of its occupants and potential exploitation, with incidences of drug dealing and taking, violence and other anti-social behaviour experienced.  

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“Unhygienic conditions which could pose a health risk have also been identified, with urination, defecation and littering around St Peter’s Square. People trying to access council services in the town hall and city centre workers have also been impacted. 

“In addition, the presence of activists has acted as a barrier to some homeless people accessing support. The organisers of this camp said that tents would be removed as the people who had been sleeping in them were accommodated and they were no longer needed. This has not been the case and the number of tents has increased since the camp was created.  

“We are engaging with those behind the camp to prevent more tents being added and encourage them to remove those that remain. The situation will be kept under constant review to ensure this goal is achieved while those in need continue to be supported.”

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