United stars allow homeless group to live at boutique hotel site

George Sell By George Sell
19 October 2015 | Updated 19 October 2015

UK: Former Manchester United footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs have allowed a group of homeless people to stay in a hotel building they own over the winter.

UK: Former Manchester United footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs have allowed a group of homeless people to stay in a hotel building they own over the winter.

The pair are converting the historic Manchester stock exchange into a boutique hotel with basement gym, spa and rooftop private members' terrace.

The building was occupied yesterday by a group of squatters and housing activists called the Manchester Angels. But instead of going to court to obtain an order to get them evicted, Giggs and Neville have told them they can stay there through the winter.

Wesley Hall, 33, a housing and human rights activist who is leading the protest, said Neville told him he had always supported homeless people and had no problem with the activists using the hotel to house people during the cold winter months.

"From my point of view, I'm quite relaxed about this," Neville said.

Hall and his fellow activists now plan to provide "a one-stop shop for homeless people - a roof over their heads, hot food, health checkups, benefit advice, workshops, signposting to other services and help with securing permanent accommodation".

They are calling the initiative Operation Safe Winter.

"We are going to do everything properly," said Hall. "We have already drawn up rotas for cooking, cleaning and staffing the gate. Everyone will be able to have their own room and each person will be able to lock their bedroom door. We were expecting that as soon as Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville found out that we had occupied the building, they would try to get us evicted and that we would have to look for another building. Having a few months during the winter to work with homeless people without the threat of eviction hanging over our heads is brilliant."

He said Neville's only stipulation was that surveyors and other work people would be able to gain access to the building as and when they need to, which was readily agreed to by Hall. "We undertake not to cause any damage to anything and to leave the building in as good if not a better state than we found it in. I have ordered smoke alarms to keep the building safe. I even suggested to Gary that he might be interested in employing some of the homeless people who are living here as labourers to help with the redevelopment work on the hotel," he said.

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