We spent the night getting to know the homeless in Manchester
‘Harry Potter is a story. My story is bigger than a book.’
Safety is sacred, and far too many people in Manchester are being denied it.
The over reported news that Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs have opened up their hearts along with their hotel, sheltering about thirty homeless people in The Manchester Stock Exchange promotes a sense of safety and goodwill.
It’s promoting Manchester as a better place, a place where the rich are emptying their pockets for the poor, taking the vulnerable into their arms in nothing less than the act of good Samaritans.
These millionaires have finally set down their glasses of Merlot and switched off their Netflix to offer something we all take for granted, a place to sleep.
Essentially, this isn’t the case and Manchester still has a huge problem.
Confused by the overarching media focus on the generosity of the footballers and with a genuine belief that those with nowhere to go are good people, sleeping bags in hand, we naively took to The Stock Exchange last night to experience it from the other side.
All guns blazing and prepared to hear some incredible stories, we were met by several locked doors and a dishevelled couple across the street holding bin bags, slurring at us to come back another time.
However, we were fortunate enough to speak with a very distressed Wesley Hall, the man taking so many cold lives into his own hands. His voice croaked down the phone as he apologised for not being able to see us. The building was essentially under attack.
So we were left, freezing cold at 10pm in Manchester City Centre about to jump on a Magic Bus home to our warm beds, when we spotted Jamie.
Sat huddled in a doorway with nothing but the clothes on his back, he told us how he found new hope when he heard about The Stock Exchange at the weekend.
“All I know is that it’s a safe place to stay until January and that means so much.
“Me and my missus were in the first 30 to arrive, but they’re now turning people away because there’s so many of us. I’m sat out here because they like us to leave in the day, before coming back at night to sleep.
“The hardest part of it all is finding somewhere for me and my missus together.”
After wishing him well, it didn’t take us more than two minutes to bump into another homeless man, a very well travelled Polish guy named Robert.
One of the coldest and loneliest people we’ve ever met, he was probably one of the friendliest too.
He explained his ordeal, where he has recently moved to Britain from Spain, and ended up in freezing cold Manchester after walking all the way from Birmingham.
He said: “Harry Potter is a story. My story is bigger than a book, there’s far more to it.”
As we were stood talking to Robert shivering, another man walked past and dropped a few coins in his tatty paper cup, to which he responded by telling us his day of work was finally over and he could go round the corner to bed, in an underground car park.
Unsteadied by guilt due to leaving Jamie and Robert with nothing more than a ham sandwich, some water and some kind words, we headed to The Ark, which had been brutally evicted earlier in the day.
Kim, a mum of one from Hulme asked for a lighter as we passed the abandoned and fenced off site, but we were drawn in by her energy and stopped to chat.
She passed The Ark everyday so had got to know those living there well and spoke with passion: “I don’t know how I feel about this, they’re all good people.
“It’s much safer for them to stick together, but obviously the council don’t like that because it causes disruption. But just sticking up fences isn’t going to change anything, they’ll just to move a few metres down the road.
“To be honest, they are being treated like criminals.”