Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

I Fear the Long, Cold Night Has Claimed a Man's Life

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

I Fear the Long, Cold Night Has Claimed a Man's Life

Article excerpt

IT'S 6am in Manchester city centre.

The weather is brutal. It's -5C, but the wind makes it feel far colder.

I'm here to speak to rough-sleepers. I'm hoping there's no story. I'm hoping the doorways and the bus shelters are empty.

I want to walk the streets and see nothing. I want to report back to the office that there's no one sleeping rough - that people are warm and safe.

Within minutes, it's clear that isn't the case.

Accommodation made available by the council in cold weather is available from 8pm until 6am.

But what happens after 6am? For some, it's back to the streets. People are given the option to go to day centres, but many are sitting on benches or huddled in doorways as the blizzard continues.

We're all aware of the extent of Manchester's homelessness crisis. We all feel that pang of guilt and sadness every time we see someone curled up on cardboard.

I just have head down with Rough-sleeperseeing people out in the snow seems so much worse.

The small part of my face still exposed to the elements is numb. I can't move my fingers properly it's so cold. How are people coping in this? I'm physically prepared, with five layers, multiple pairs of socks and two coats. I soon realise I'm not emotionally prepared.

In Piccadilly Gardens, a man is trying to make a 'bed' in a doorway.

He isn't wearing gloves and his clothes aren't nearly thick enough to keep him warm.

I tell him where I work and ask if he will talk to me about his situation.

In the five minutes we speak, Ricky, 44, quickly opens up.

He tells me about the breakdown of his marriage, which left him on the streets and without a job seven years ago.

I'm taken aback by Ricky's honesty. It's as though I've asked about something trivial, like directions to the nearest coffee shop - not the darkest moments of his life.

Ricky says he spent the night in a shelter, but that theft and fights are a big problem. Clearly upset and frustrated, he tells me his coat and his friend's shoes were stolen as they slept.

The choice, he said, is clear - a night in the warm, or keeping hold of all your stuff.

"I just have to keep my head down and get on with it," he says.

I buy Ricky a coffee, which he shares with a friend.

Later, he offers his hat to a man who has been on the streets for four days.

"You have to look after each other," he says.

Ricky says he's so grateful for the money, food and clothing people have given him over the years.

He asks me to tell people that on his behalf - to let them know he appreciates people's generosity. So, from Ricky... thank you. Walking back to his makeshift shelter, he smiles at me.

"It can only get better," he says. I hope so. Later, I get a call from the office.

One of the editors tells me a woman has rung up after seeing a man sleeping rough outside Dawsons music shop on Portland Street. …

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