Manchester United legends Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville recently invested in the old stock exchange building in Manchester, with plans to turn it into a luxury hotel.
The high-end venue is set to feature a basement gym, spa and rooftop private members’ terrace. What it was not meant to feature was an angry group of homeless protesters.
The activists, known as Manchester Angels, stormed the hotel, which is currently undergoing renovations, over the weekend and took up residence in the lobby in an attempt to highlight the plight of the homeless in the city.
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However, while most building owners would rush to get the group evicted, the Manchester United duo surprised pretty much everyone by allowing them to stay throughout the winter,
One of the protesters, Wesley Hall, 33, revealed he spoke to Neville after the group raided the hotel, and said he shed tears when the former Manchester United defender told him they would be allowed to stay throughout the coldest months of the year.
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“Thank you so much – you don’t understand what you have done for us,” Hall said repeatedly to Neville.
England's assistant manager said he was 'relaxed' about the situation and was always keen to help the homeless in Manchester.
Hall and his fellow activists say they plan to use the building as a hub to help the homeless, and can offer hot food, health checkups, benefit advice, workshops, signposting to other services and help with securing permanent accommodation. They intend on referring to the building as the "Sock Exchange" - in reference to the fact that they will also be offering clothes to those in need.
“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.
Change of heart
"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.”
The activists say that homelessness in Manchester has risen by 150% in recent years, while the latest statistics say that more than 7,500 slept on the streets in London alone - with more than 600,000 homes sitting empty across the country.