"They need emergency shelter right now in Salford before anyone else dies..." Angela `Penny' Barratt, Street Support
Last Friday, they didn't want it announced particularly, but the Red Cross was in Salford, parked up outside an unsafe building where fifteen homeless people were squatting.
The Red Cross was handing out hot drinks and food from its emergency vehicle, right in the shadow of some of the most prime real estate in Salford, being hyped by the English Cities fund (ECf) as `New Bailey'... "A vibrant riverside setting with a radical skyline of inspired architecture at the heart of a thriving hub where business and leisure collide..."
A hundred yards up the road, at the side of a new NCP multi-storey car park that cost £12million to build, is the entrance to the `arches'; now roped off with police tape, beyond which is a sign reading `R.I.P. Daniel – Gone But Not Forgotten'...
On the wall where homeless people climb to get in to sleep under the old arches there's also a shrine to 23 year old Daniel Smith, found murdered and burned last week. There's candles and flowers and a card reading `You're now wrapped in the wings of an angel...no more pain...your spirit shall live on...'
Amongst the homeless community there are rumours of another death since Daniel's; of someone who froze to death in the sub zero temperatures last week. They are convinced it is being hushed up to save Salford, the police and the authorities any more embarrassment. Because here, right here, in the shadow of a £650million regeneration scheme aimed purely at the rich, growing numbers of people are sleeping rough – and now paying the price with their lives.
"I think we've gone back to the dark ages" says Angela `Penny' Barratt who has been working with homeless people for over four years, via her Street Support Salford and Manchester group.
"It's a basic human right to have shelter but no human rights apply in Salford" she says "Where's the shelter for these people who are basically dying on the streets? They need emergency shelter right now in Salford before anyone else dies."
Penny, as she's known, takes us to meet David, who, during the day, is living in the doorway of Tesco Express on New Bailey Street. He's been here so long that the postman jokes he should have it as his official address...
"Last night I slept in the doorway of Cafe Nero because of the rain and the other night here because it's got a CCTV camera...you know, because of what happened" he says "I was shocked, really shocked. I just sleep with one eye open every night now. Why they've done it I don't know, and it's not the first time either."
On the night Daniel got murdered, David was due to sleep, as usual, under the arches but his aunt let him spend the night at hers... "I came back the next day and found out what had happened" he recalls "I could have stopped it because you're better off in numbers..."
David has been homeless off and on since 2008, since his grandma died in his arms in Torquay. He came to Greater Manchester to be with family but ended up in jail `after a big argument', and now resides on the Salford and Manchester streets... "I would rather be in jail, it's warm and you've got a bed" he says.
With no identification and no place to live, he can't claim benefits, while council housing staff have told him there's nothing they can do... "It's stupid really" he says "And the charities are a joke to be honest, because they are getting all the money and not doing anything with it for us."
David is waiting on a place at Abbot Lodge, waiting for the Booth Centre to get back in touch and hasn't been able to bid for a City West property since he lost his bidding number and password a few years ago. A member of staff who was helping him left the company and he's been left in the lurch ever since.
Instead, David is saving the coins that people put in his polystyrene cup for a deposit on a private rental flat... "I'm going to get my own place" he says "Even a bedsit will do...I've got to get my deposit and then hopefully get off the streets as soon as possible...but you need references and god knows what..."
In the meantime his bedroom is the doorway of Tesco Express, Cafe Nero when it rains, or under the now-dreaded arches. And as David sits with his cup, hoping to raise enough for a flat deposit, right opposite, staring at him all day is this giant Mammon's palace called One New Bailey.
It's a sterile 125,000 square feet of `state of the art office development' funded by Legal & General as part of the English Cities fund redevelopment of Central Salford.
"I'm a joiner by trade, and have been asking them for work but they said they've got none" says David "I think it's because I'm sat here like this. We're all just litter to them, to the police and the government..."
Elsewhere in and around New Bailey and Chapel Street, where Salford City Council has been busy spending £18.4million buying up land for redevelopment, there's a Premier Inn Hotel, a £16million `bespoke' Private Rental Scheme (PRS) block in development, the infamous Vimto building helped along with £10.6million public money loans - including £3.8million from Salford City Council - and the Ainscow boutique hotel, supported with over £184,000 from the Council to tart up the pavements outside (see here).
To make the Salford border with Manchester a place of comfort for the rich, there's no end of public money subsidies. But for those who eek out an existence in the shadows, there's nothing. To say they've been let down would be the biggest understatement of the year.
Officially, Salford has only 14 rough sleepers (see here). But David knows of at least forty people sleeping either under the arches, on the streets, in squatted buildings or in what's known as `the cave', under an underground car park.
Yet, so far, there has not been one affordable property in any of these £multi-million housing developments, or any money towards social housing in planning fees from the luxury office/hotel/car park developments...
When developers build in the area they are supposed to pay into an ECf/Salford Council pot called the Development Trust Account but the details of this have been kept secret* and not a penny from this account has been made public going towards the most vulnerable people in the community.
"They should be building flats or something for people who are homeless" says David "I think it's shocking really because with all the money they could be building shelters for us, and they could get the residents to run it, as well as give them jobs."
When law firm, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, agreed to let space in One New Bailey, Salford City Mayor, Ian Stewart, couldn't contain himself... "It's exciting news" he said in a press release. Not a word about the lack of anything for the community within the £650million New Bailey and Chapel Street developments.
Meanwhile, funding for single homeless people in Salford just keeps getting cut and cut. One of the last acts by Councillor Peter Connor, Assistant Mayor for Adult Services, before he got culled himself, was to `Accept the savings proposed for single homeless and young people's services...'
"David should be in supported accommodation so he can be helped to get back on his feet" says Angela "But there's cuts and too much red tape in the way. If someone gave me a building I would take in at least fifty homeless people. Out here, a lot of them get attacked and robbed.
"They shouldn't be living on the streets" she repeats "It's like the dark ages..."
• David is desperate for new clothes (medium), new shoes (size 7), underwear, shower gels and anything waterproof. Anyone who wishes to donate can either find him in the doorway of Tesco Express or contact the Salford Star (firstname.lastname@example.org).
• For full details of the ECf and its secret Development Trust Account see the printed issue of Salford Star – click here.