Star date: 23rd February 2016


“Now I have to go back to my tent…ready for someone to slice it open and grab my bags…it’s horrible…” Luke age 20

Following the murder of homeless lad, Daniel Smith, at the arches in Salford, those sleeping rough were offered accommodation. Now, with the media spotlight dimmed, those same young people are being kicked back out onto the streets to face more horrors…knives, Spice and every bit of criminality that Dickensian Greater Manchester can offer…

Full details here…

Salford Shrine for Daniel Smith The Arches Salford Salford Shrine for Daniel Smith
click image to enlarge
On the day that Daniel Smith’s body was being released back to his family, his friend, Luke, aged 20, is wearing a medallion featuring an image of the homeless lad who was found murdered in a burning tent at `the arches’, the Dickensian style refuge under the old bridges by the side of `New Bailey’s‘ gleaming new £12million NCP car park.A women made two of the special chains, and gave one to Daniel’s mother and Luke got the other one…

“When I wear it I’ve got him with me, and all the close people I have lost” he says “He’s with me 24:7. He looks after me at night, when I’m getting my head in my sleeping bag and there’s kids getting about town with knives and all other kinds of shit going on. This is what looks after me.”

Luke, who’s been homeless on and off for around six years, was one of those who, like others who stayed at the arches, was offered accommodation in the aftermath of the murder when the media spotlight was shining on Salford and Manchester’s homeless problem. Now, with the media gone, he and others are back out on the streets facing the same horrors as before…

“When Daniel was murdered they put them all into accommodation for 28 days and now they’re all back on the street” explains Angela `Penny’ Barratt of the Street Support Salford and Manchester group “It’s the same as when Ben Hammond died last year. Why can’t they leave them in accommodation permanently, then none of this will be happening to them?”

Luke was put up in a hostel in Longsight. But, as of yesterday, his new `home’ is a tent in Lincoln Square at the back of the swanky shops of Deansgate…

“In the hostel my room was the tidiest, I had all my things, I had security” he says “Now I’m homeless. Now I have to go back to my tent in Lincoln Square…ready for someone to slice it open and grab my bags…it’s horrible…”

Luke talks of a 14 year old homeless lad he helped on Christmas Eve, of a 16 year old currently living on the streets; and estimates, from experience, that at least half those sleeping rough in Manchester and Salford are under 25.

“Out here a lot of kids are young and they don’t come from trampy estates, they come from nicely brought up families where they just went down the wrong road” he explains “Now they’re out here begging and they’re hiding their faces because they don’t want their families to come out and see them like that.”

Angela says that a lot of them start sleeping rough for one night after they’ve had a relationship breakdown or a family argument but then get sucked into the lifestyle, now made worse by the growth of so-called legal highs like Spice. Luke is convinced that the drug was in some way connected with Daniel Smith’s murder…

“It was the people he was going about with, the wrong crowd” he says “Spice is a big problem, it’s not nice; why would you put something that’s killing people out there, making it legal to buy? It’s sick.

“Do they think their kids are not going to go to school and find their best mates are trying it and are going to have a quick smoke?” he asks “Of course they are. And they are going to have to deal with it. It puts a totally different perspective on life in your eyes, it really does.

“When people tell you it’s like weed, it’s not nothing like it; it’s ten times badder and it’s not something that should be out there” he adds “It makes you feel totally weird, you have to smoke it to know what it’s like. If it wasn’t out there people would be doing things about their lives, sorting things out but Spice is all they’re bothered about, from the minute they wake up to the minute they close their eyes. That’s how bad it is. I know kids that have been off it for six months and they’ve come and seen other kids on it, and are back on it, begging on the streets. It’s not a nice life to live.”

Angela, working on the streets, has witnessed its affects on the area’s homeless… “I’ve noticed a big change in the last twelve months with Spice” she says “It makes people so unpredictable – mood swings, severe depression, schizophrenia, all sorts. They get on the drugs and it’s a vicious circle.”

Luke recognises how young people end up on the streets… “I used to run away from home” he says “I used to hang around with crackheads, smackheads, that was me; that’s how I felt big. But that’s nothing. It’s all about life and family – who is there when that’s gone?”

When that’s gone, there’s the street community trying to hold it together in the face of the drugs, the knives, the stealing and the contempt from authorities that sees £billions being lavished on Manchester and Salford’s city centre developments, boutique hotels and unaffordable housing…

“What do I think when I see them?” Luke laughs “What do I not think! I wake up in the morning and don’t want to wake up in my tent, it feels trampy; it feels horrible. Yet there are perfectly nice houses and buildings boarded up. I used to go past 72 houses boarded up in Collyhurst on the way to the Harpurhey night shelter. You wouldn’t want to know what goes through this mind frame!”

Luke met Angela on the Friday after Daniel’s murder, lighting candles at the makeshift shrine set up at the front of the NCP car park…

“I was planning to spend the night at the arches, to pay respect, and she was there” he recalls “She found me and she’s done a lot.”

Now Angela is trying to get him and others a housing association place… “There’s nowhere safe for them to go at night, where they can just go to sleep; it’s a shame. I’m trying to get people to take some of these lads on to do jobs, to give them a bit of confidence and some money.”

In the meantime, Luke doesn’t know what his future holds, apart from a sleeping bag, a tent and having his wits about him on the street

“At the end of the day I could walk out there tomorrow and die, so `Live life like it’s your last day’, that’s the way I see it” he says “I want a job, I want normality, I love it, I love normality… I want to get back out there when I’m feeling fresh and fine. But I’m sick of this. I’m sick of it…”

Stephen Kingston

First published in the Salford Star, 23 February 2016

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