Lonely and scared’ elderly woman found sleeping rough on busy city centre street

An elderly woman described as “lonely and scared” was found sleeping rough on the streets of a city centre.

She was spotted sat down on a tarpaulin with just a duvet to cover her on Tuesday in Market Street, Manchester by a member of a volunteer group.

Matthew Hudson, from the Don’t Walk Past organisation noticed the shivering woman, who is thankfully now getting help.

Matthew and other volunteers, including Lauren Jones and Jo Reah, were out feeding people. They give out hot meals several times a week.

“She was very confused,” Lauren, 33, told Manchester Evening News.

“She was scared. She was sitting on a tarpaulin, with just a duvet. She was freezing cold.”

Lauren, from Irlams o’ th’ Height, Salford, offered to help the woman, but had to let her make the decision herself.

She added: “We made a few phone calls and gave her our card, to let her know we could help.

“People have said ‘she can stay with me’, but it’s not as simple as that.

“We went home and it played on our minds even more. We left at midnight and it was cold and wet. She was still out there.

“I posted that picture on Facebook and it went viral.

“The picture was really shocking. It broke my heart.

“I knew it was distressing yet powerful, but I didn’t realise how many people would be touched by it.”

Lauren and other volunteers, who alerted the council, went back out on Wednesday to look for the woman, understood to be in her 60s.

The town hall said outreach teams were sent to search for her too.

“We are working to find her as a priority so she can be found accommodation and offered all the support at our disposal,” the council said just before 5pm.

Shortly after, Lauren found her.

“She was very upset,” she said.

“She said she’s been moved on from where she’d been. She was in Piccadilly Gardens.

“It was scary for her, there were lots of noises. She said it was like ‘Armageddon’.

“We’re still trying to find out what happened to her, how she ended up on the streets.

“We’ve given her a new phone with a new SIM card.

“We can’t force anybody to do anything. It’s about gaining trust – we’re here if she needs us.”

Lauren said the woman was offered a place in accommodation outside the city centre, which she wasn’t comfortable with.

The group decided to put her up in a hotel for the time being. They’ll foot the bill.

Lauren and her colleagues are still trying to find out how the woman ended up sleeping rough – and how they and the authorities can help.

For now, they’re giving her space.

Don’t Walk Past, which has more than 4,300 members, was started by Ronny English.

“He saw someone freezing cold and wet through sat in a wheelchair in Manchester one night,” Lauren said.

“He knew he had to do something about it.

“It all started from there – a few people from Salford wanting to give back. People are only a few lost paydays away from being in that position.

“Our message is clear – if you have the capacity to do something to help, stop walking and do it. Don’t walk past.”

A Manchester council spokesman said: “We are pleased to see that quick action was taken to get this woman off the streets and into safe, stable accommodation.

Mirror on the Street – investigation into homelessness
“Our outreach team worked alongside homelessness charities and organisations to find her after being alerted on Wednesday.

“While we were unsuccessful, we were relieved to learn that she had been found by a partner charity.

“The public’s response has been gratifying to see and reinforces our belief that no Mancunian will stand idly by when people are forced to sleep rough.

“We will always do everything in our power to support people in need and I now hope this woman gets all the help she needs to prevent her from ever having to sleep rough again.”