Homeless people who had been living rent-free in a Manchester hotel owned by former Manchester United stars Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs for more than three months have left the building.
A group of squatters and activists called the Manchester Angels occupied the former Stock Exchange building in October ahead of planned refurbishment work. Rather than evict them, Neville and Giggs decided they could stay for a few months.
The new residents kept the building clean and tidy and Neville provided food and security staff at an estimated cost of £150,000, The Guardian reported.
Nathan Newman, a volunteer at the building, told the paper: “That first night when all the homeless people in Manchester heard that Gary Neville was opening up his hotel to them every single person’s face changed from miserable and downcast to pure elation.
“They knew that someone cared enough about them to do a thing like this and that meant a lot to them. There was a real surge of energy and optimism.”
An Iranian asylum seeker called Ash said as he prepared to leave: “I have been getting panicked in the last couple of days about what is going to happen to me now. I have been able to sleep safely for the last three months because the security people are here.
“When you are sleeping rough every noise scares you and wakes you up. I got into a routine of waking up every morning, going down to the kitchen for breakfast and having a chat with the security people. It was like living in a big family. I’m really going to miss all that.
“But I have some really good people in my life now that weren’t there before, like Rob, the head of security. He used to buy us all coffee and cake every day. The stock exchange has been a lucky place for me.”
Another resident, Wesley Dove, praised Neville for allowing them to stay, but described a bleak future.
“The council opened up two night shelters but they will close in March. So many people will just be back on the streets. Some new squats have opened up in the city centre but they are dangerous places. The hostels are not good places,” he said.
“We need some real solutions to homelessness.”