Drugs in the city

The Provision For Substance Misuse In The City

An MHP VoxPop Focus Group

On 9th July the MHP VOX POP Action Group (comprised wholly of people with personal experience of homelessness) focused on the The Provision For Substance Misuse In The City. Joining the meeting was Kate McDonald, MCC City Centre Public Services Manager.

Kate has identified room for improvement in the city and works with all stakeholders in the city, including people with a personal insight into homelessness, substance misuse, mental health etc. Kate reports to the Manchester City Centre Accountability Board and Richard Leese (Leader of the Manchester City Council) so any feedback from the group with regards to this issue will reach the Accountability Board.


What is the city missing when offering solutions to people who are homeless and have substance misuse issues and is what the city currently offers enough?


  • Visible substance abuse is a real issue that affects everyone. The people using the substances, shoppers, visitors, tourists, businesses and private enterprises in the city, the police, city council. The impact is extremely damaging and far reaching.  

  • Criminalisation of drug use in the city could be seen as a ‘class thing’. People who use cocaine at parties are not criminalised in the same way as someone who is homeless and using heroin or spice.  

  • Arrests happen for begging but only in certain circumstances i.e.’aggressive’ begging, or if offer of support is not taken up.

  • A more compassionate response may be called for, with some evidence of carrot and not stick.

  • Great Places, Humankind work with many people who have addiction issues, they focus on getting people in accommodation and offer support around addiction and mental health once someone is housed.

  • The new Housing First project is similar and the Council and the city could make good use of this, housing people first gives them some breathing space to look at their drug use, mental health etc.

  • Prioritising addicts for housing provision. This may be seen as rewarding people for drug use yet it would also save the city a lot of money.

  • Safe Using Spaces – this idea has been mentioned by the group on several occasions, it would provide support and harm reduction.

  • Mobile support – CGL (Change Grow Live) have a bus ready to go but there are issues of where it would park, there will be resistance from businesses in the city. MASH have an outreach vehicle and there would be some good learning from them.

  • More needle exchanges in the city. There are none in the city centre, as well as the benefits of disposing of needles for the general public, drug users could get support, and maybe have the seed planted to make some permanent change.

  • More opportunity for Detox and Treatment, this has become increasingly hard to access over recent years, this could have the dual benefit of offering safe accommodation and helping someone move away from substance misuse.

Many thanks to the Manchester Homeless Partnership VoxPop Group for sharing this useful feedback.

Thanks as ever for your continued support.