Alarm at spike in region of rough sleeping

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A sharp increase in the number of people sleeping rough has been branded “appalling” by a local MP aiming to become Greater Manchester mayor.

Leigh MP and Labour mayoral candidate Andy Burnham spoke out after figures showed a 41 per cent rise in those without a roof over their heads in just 12 months.

The borough showed equally concerning spikes in its annual autumn rough sleeping survey, with 26 people spending the night out of doors in 2016 compared to just three in 2015.

Only Manchester city centre had more rough sleepers than Wigan during the survey, conducted by local authorities between October 1 and November 30.

Across Greater Manchester the number of rough sleepers jumped to 189 from 134 in the 2015 survey period.

The figures prompted Mr Burnham to promise strong action against the scourge of homelessness if he is elected mayor by Greater Manchester’s voters.

Mr Burnham said: “These appalling figures must shock the Government out of its indifference. They are the human cost of their cuts to mental health, social care, supported housing and other forms of essential support.

“As more and more people are forced to huddle in doorways, the Tories are simply walking on by on the other side. But the people of Greater Manchester are better than that and want something to be done.

“If I am elected mayor, I will take immediate action, bringing together charities, businesses and faith groups in a new Homelessness Action Network. I will set the ambitious goal of eradicating rough-sleeping in Greater Manchester by 2020.

“To achieve this, everyone will need to play their part. That’s why I have said I will donate 15 per cent of my salary on an on-going basis towards tackling rough-sleeping.

“Progress happens when our city-region works together and does things differently. Though the Tory Government looks the other way, we can at least ensure that here in Greater Manchester no-one is forced to spend a night on the cold streets.”

Wigan charity The Brick welcomed Mr Burnham’s words on the issue.

Chief executive Kathleen Pitt said: “We welcome Andy Burnham’s suggestion of action to bring charities, businesses and faith groups together in Greater Manchester to collaborate on this issue.

“At The Brick our vision is to eradicate poverty and homelessness in our community and ensure that no one is left behind. It is vital that all people can enjoy the same essentials in life; home, warmth, food, companionship and work.

“The need to work together on a common goal to achieve this is more important than ever before as reflected by the latest figures.”