Project Ark: House The Homeless!

There are over 600,000 empty dwellings in England alone. Let that sink in for a moment: six hundred thousand empty homes. In Manchester, it’s 25,000, per the Manchester Evening News. How can that be right? While there are campaigns to open those houses and put them to use, the situation isn’t changing because the core problem is that the owners aren’t willing to put them onto the market unless there’s a chance of making a profit. It is speculation, not inflation, that puts housing costs up.

Manchester City Council Won’t Help

Despite their assertions that they’ve got a plan in place for dealing with homelessness, Manchester City Council are apparently not terribly cooperative when it comes to providing empty property lists to people who ask for them. If, then, they really were interested in housing the homeless, this would not have happened.


We’ve got a plan

At our weekly meeting at The Sandbar, the 38Degrees Manchester group hatched a plan to help the homeless, particularly those from the Ark, to find permanent housing so they wouldn’t have to suffer the indignity of being moved on every once in a while. As the local police say, “Move them where? They’ve got nowhere to go!” Well then, let us GIVE them a place to go to! The plan:

  1. Locate an empty building
  2. Find out who owns it
  3. Find out how much it would cost to purchase it
  4. Crowd source the money
  5. Buy the building, then hand it over to the people from The Ark
  6. Rinse and repeat on a national scale after demonstrating that this works

We need to make it work

It seems so simple but actually the issues underlying homelessness tend to be complex and merely housing people doesn’t necessarily solve all of their problems. We at 38Degrees Manchester are working professionals, we’re aware of the complexity and enormity of what we’re dealing with. However, we’re agreed that getting a roof over people’s heads with a door they can lock will immediately allay the anxieties that go with being in a hostile environment in which they are vulnerable to abuse. This would then make any other issues, e.g. drug abuse or mental illness easier to deal with. We are also aware that people’s needs as individuals and groups are different; the people we are trying to help need to be involved in the development of this project at every stage. We have already spoken to the people at The Ark and they have agreed that this is the way they want to go.

If the private sector can do it, so can we

Take a look at this article in Manchester Confidential:

The sums currently stack up with them buying for an average £40k, spending £20k on a very good refurbishment and selling for around £70k or renting at a competitive rent – £525 for a two bed, £595 for three beds. – Jill Burdett, Derelict East Manchester Houses Refurbished – Manchester Confidential

Two speculators buy up derelict properties, do them up, then sell them to local people. We could easily do the same, but as a non-profit venture…

…if we had the money. So what do we do about getting the money?

Crowdfunding works

Property Partner has been set up to do this as an investment platform but there’s no reason why we couldn’t do the same thing for a non-profit cause. Other property crowdfunding sites exist as investment platforms and tend to encourage property speculation so we’re probably best going with charity crowdfunders than profit-driven ones.

To make crowdfunding work, your pitch has got to be compelling. This one failed. This one succeeded. As did this one. The trick is to demonstrate the following qualities:

  • They are “deserving” because they help others, etc.
  • They are “deserving” because they help themselves as much as possible
  • The message is personal or touches a nerve

The people of The Ark are certainly deserving — and enterprising. Most of them have skills in the building trade: they are electricians, plumbers, and carpenters/handymen. If we raised the money, bought a derelict building and gave it to them, they would be able to carry out the renovation works themselves. They were actually selling cupcakes they had made themselves prior to the raid on Friday 18th September. All they need, then, is a place of their own that they can use as housing AND as a workshop/marketplace for selling the things they make, the idea being that they’re self-sufficient and the project itself is self-sustaining.

Will you help?

We need to find an empty building for these people to move into for now. Then they won’t be moved on or evicted. We can deal with their long-term problems after we’ve housed them. We need help to:

  • source a building, find out who owns it, and let us know how much it would cost to buy it
  • set up the crowdfunding campaign to purchase the property and ensure the legal transfer of ownership
  • publicise this campaign far and wide to get us the media interest we’ll need to get the money rolling in
  • set up support systems to provide the help they may need with ongoing personal issues
  • monitor the situation to ensure its success, the idea being to deal with any issues that arise so we can learn from our experiences
  • get advice from professionals in the field, particularly social workers specialising in the needs of homeless or vulnerable people

We can’t possibly do this by ourselves, there are too few of us. We haven’t made any solid plans yet, we’re just thinking about it. With a bit of assistance and a lot of planning we can make this work. Will you help?


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Comments (2)

  1. Reply

    Over 80,000 people across Greater Manchester are waiting for social housing. There are 25,000 empty homes while people sleep on the streets.

    Are you facing a housing problem? Are you trying to organise in your community to resist displacement or to deal with a dodgy private landlord? Are you facing a problem with rent arrears? Do you want to meet other people and organise together for better housing in the city?

    On October the 18th Kate Hardy, Tom Gillespie and Manchester Generation Rent host a free event at Islington Mill.

    Aimed at getting together the communities, charities and campaigners who are affected by the increasing impact of housing issues; this free public event hopes to creaMHA 3te a network in Manchester to contest the housing crisis.

  2. Iain Fortune


    This project has lain dormant for a while as we searched for someone with the right connections and understanding of the system we’d need to employ. we may now have such a person in Amy Varle of People’s property shop.

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