A vulnerable man, of pensionable age, made homeless - this speaks to the heart of the housing problem
Like the last pirate in the last outpost of old Hulme...the redoubtable Captain Cae0s was finally parted from his home, some days ago, marking the end of a long and bitterly contested eviction.
Readers may recall that as a resident at the Bentley ‘redbricks’ estate Cae was the owner-occupier of a flat with no arrears in his finances (so he insisted) yet was seemingly singled out and picked on for breaches to his lease, which many others on the estate had similarly made.
Read about Cae: 'The truth about social cleansing in Manchester' (1 Aug 2017)
Gentrification by force, some will say, as tenants and residents in Manchester feel their grip on their own homes loosening in a city where the turnover of property is the driver of the economy. One Manchester housing association get Cae’s flat for nothing, of course...though Confidential ought at this point to be crediting chairman Bernard Priest and place manager Barry Seers for at least providing Cae with a tiny one bedroom flat in St Georges to spare him from the streets. Perhaps that was the intention all along.
That part didn’t go exactly to plan, however, the word being that such zeal was applied to the process of unhoming him that the pest control showed up two hours sooner than advertised, and Cae was flushed into the road without first pocketing the papers he needed to claim the new one.
With the old place boarded up, he found himself for a week in the position which had been advertised all along: that of a vulnerable man, of pensionable age, homeless.
Reporting for Confidential on Cae’s situation was a difficult assignment, due to the complexities of the legal case and Cae’s seeming inability to articulate them in the absence of legal representation. Had he been able to afford an advocate, had he been blessed with the requisite mental health, had he not seemed to acquire a bunker mentality through the blinkered purview of intoxicants, had he been lucid and straightforward and upfront and not aggressive and – significantly – truthful, he might well have avoided this denouement.
But that’s life.
There are many wounded animals in our community. And this case, which signals worrying portents with respect to the issue of low security housing, seems to speak to the heart of the housing problem.
It’s a shame that Bernard Priest, deputy leader of the council and chairman of One Manchester housing association, declined to be interviewed for the original article. Perhaps a constructive dialogue could be established, so the other side can be heard?
It’s worth underlining that at the end of this affair, Cae was not made destitute. To many that isn’t the point, though. The point is that when property becomes more valuable than money in the bank, and inequality sparks a bonanza in second homes just as the poor are decanted into smaller and smaller units, the prospect of losing your home can spell devastation beyond imagining.
The perception of ‘social cleansing’ has been dramatically stoked by the Grenfell fire. As Cae prepares for life in his little new box, we should ask Mr Priest and his colleagues to ask themselves if alternatives cannot be found to the toxically antisocial way we ‘do’ housing.