Pensioners are among a number of rough sleepers bedding down at Manchester Airport.
Charity workers say three people in their 70s are among those who have been found sleeping at the airport over the last three months.
A 76-year-old woman and a former soldier were just two of the people helped and placed into temporary accommodation during a week of action in December.
Steph Moore runs outreach at the airport three days a week and says around 15 rough sleepers can be found there most mornings – however the true numbers are not known.
“It’s very transient,” she says.
“It’s not the same people we’re seeing all the time. There are a handful of regulars. People go, come back and go again.”
Good transport links, warmth and safety are thought to be some of the reasons why people stay at the UK’s second busiest airport.
“If you’re homeless, where can you go where it’s dry and indoors? And where have they got toilets?
“It’s all those kind of things we all take for granted,” says Steph, who co-runs Reach Out to the Community – a charity working across south Manchester to support rough sleepers and those in food poverty.
“To a lot of people in the community, the airport feels safe. There are cameras there. It’s warmer than some places.
“People don’t want to go into the city center. Homelessness has steadily increased and Piccadilly is just bedlam at the moment.”
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Some homeless people have been known to leave the airport during the day to go to work and return to sleep there at night.
Others have landed at the airport and slept there because they have nowhere else to go. Reach Out are working with charities including Lifeshare as well as Manchester City Council and airport bosses to signpost those most in need of the appropriate services.
“We’ve had people from out of the area, from Birmingham and Cumbria,” Steph says. “We had someone in his seventies from Cumbria recently.
“I am seeing more older people on the streets now. In just three months we’ve had at least three people in their 70s. I don’t understand it. Anyone that age we will try and house as soon as possible.
“And we had a couple of women recently at the airport. One woman came from Europe. During the pandemic there were a lot of European people working lost their jobs in hospitality and ended up on the streets.”
Some of those at the airport are ‘entrenched’ rough sleepers who have been on the streets for years. Others are more recently homeless.
“It’s a mixture of people,” Steph says. “There’s no pattern to it. We have got people who have been staying there for quite a while.
“You can easily blend in at the airport if you’ve got a bag or a pull-along case. The only reason we notice some people is because we recognize them. We start saying ‘hi’ and then ask if they are sleeping here We tend to see most people at 6am.
“We’ve had people coming off the plane who then got stuck here. There are all sorts of reasons people are homeless.
“Some people choose to hide and we don’t see them. Some people will go off to work in the day but are sleeping at the airport.”
Official figures from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority show a reduction in rough sleeping over the last five years.
Mayor Andy Burnham says there was a 67 per cent reduction between 2017 and 2021 – compared to 49 per cent for England.
But the emergence of rough sleepers at the airport highlights how street homelessness is still a major issue across Greater Manchester – and not just in the city centre.
A Manchester Airport spokesman said: “Homeless people frequenting the airport does happen from time to time and is something we work closely with the police and council on, to ensure they are signed to the right care and local charitable organisations.”
A Manchester Council spokesperson said: “We are aware that people do sleep rough at the airport.
“We have dedicated officers in our outreach team who work closely with airport staff and the Reach Out to the Community charity to help people access the services they need and support them into accommodation so that we can continue to reduce the number of people sleeping rough in our city.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.