Why homeless people in Manchester are struggling to get on buses and back on their feet

The need for those who are sleeping rough or in temporary accommodation to get on buses is all the more pressing as accommodation for them is increasingly scattered around the city-region, the charity says.

A Manchester homelessness charity is calling on regional transport bosses to make it easier for homeless people to gain free access to public transport.

Coffee4Craig says it is currently far too difficult for rough sleepers or those living in temporary accommodation to be able to ride on buses even though many of them are entitled to do so.

The charity, which is based in the Strangeways area, says the need is particularly pressing as Manchester’s chronic affordable housing shortage means people are increasingly housed a long way from the services which can help them get off the streets for good.

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) says it has already done some work to allow rough sleepers to use public transport, but acknowledged the charity thinks more could be done and has promised to look into it.

During the height of the Covid pandemic, hundreds of homeless people were put up in hotels (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)

What does Coffee4Craig think is the problem with public transport for homeless people?

Coffee4Craig, which has been running for eight and a half years supporting those sleeping on the streets in Manchester, says many people who are homeless face barriers to getting on the buses for free even though legally they should be able to do so.

The charity suggested transport authorities in the city-region have seemed reluctant to fully support rough sleepers with getting on the public transport network.

Coffee4Craig co-founder Risha Lancaster said: “What’s criminal is that the majority of homeless people are entitled to a free bus pass, yet transport bodies make it so difficult to apply for one.

“If you’ve got a chaotic lifestyle you basically can’t have a bus pass.

“If you’re refused a driving licence for reasons like addiction or epilepsy, which many homeless people have, you should be able to get a free bus pass.

“Yet for many homeless people it’s barriers in front of barriers in front of barriers, it’s just too much hassle for them.”

Why does Coffee4Craig think this is an important issue?

Risha said free bus passes would make a huge difference to the chances of people leaving the streets behind and moving on with their lives.

And she said the need for public transport access has become greater as a huge shortage of affordable and low-cost accommodation in Manchester city centre means people often have to travel huge distances between the accommodation they are found and the services which can help them.

She said: “A lot of people now are put in a B&B in Sale and from there they have to get into town to access services that can help them.

“They can’t afford the fare so a lot of them are dumped and left or they have to walk, when a lot of them are in really poor health.

Risha Lancaster

“They end up jumping the tram, if they’re fortunate to be somewhere with one, but then they get into trouble and fined and it just builds up.

“All they want to do is get to the services, access help and get fed.

“It’s a pet hate of mine. With free bus passes people could travel easily to their appointments and get food as well. If they weren’t suffering malnutrition so much they might be able to think properly at their appointments.

“Currently it’s a massive vicious circle.”

What has Transport for Greater Manchester said?

TfGM said it had done some things to get people in desperate situations onto the buses for free, but acknowledged there were processes they had to go through to get passes.

It also recognised that Coffee4Craig is not happy with the current situation and said it is looking into what more can be done.

Sean Dyball, head of customer engagement at TfGM, said: “Homeless people already face huge challenges, and it is critical that they should receive the assistance they need and have the same access to concessionary passes as anyone else.

“As part of the A Bed Every Night scheme, we currently supply bus tickets to homeless people via the GMCA Homelessness team, to enable them to travel and access essential services and accommodation.

“A number of homeless people have also been provided with six-month passes via this scheme, after proving eligibility in terms of their disability or age. This is a requirement for anyone applying for a concessionary bus pass.

“We have received a request from Coffee4Craig specifically for support and are working closely with the GMCA to determine how we can best we can do this moving forward.

“Looking ahead, we are assessing options around further provisions to enable homeless people to more easily access buses using a concessionary pass in line with the current provisions.”