John Leech is sleeping on Manchester's streets tonight

Former Manchester MP John Leech is sleeping on the city's streets tonight in a campaign aiming to highlight the homeless crisis.

The yearly event, organised by the Booth Centre, hopes to raise money and awareness of what has been described as a "homeless crisis".

Recent statistics show there are nearly 3,000 homeless people in Manchester, a rise of 33% from 2016.

Last year, more than 250 people came together to raise £60,000 for The Booth Centre. This year, the charity hopes to beat that record as more than 400 people are set to sleep rough outside Manchester Cathedral.

Among those taking to the streets tonight is Liberal Democrat Councillor John Leech, who has campaigned extensively on the issue of rough sleeping and Manchester's lack of affordable housing since being elected as the only opposition member last year. 

Recent disagreements over affordable housing in the town hall caused tensions to boil over, with Mayor Andy Burnham being forced to step in after Mr Leech accused the council of "social cleansing". His stinging attack came after the council approved the construction of more than 2,500 homes - not a single one of which they could guarantee would be affordable.

Speaking at the Manchester Sleepout tonight, John Leech said the fact that these fundraising and awareness events are still so important is a "depressing reminder of how badly homeless people have been systematically let down."

The sole opposition councillor said: "Organisations like The Booth Centre provide invaluable support, but events like this only just begin to give you an idea of how awful it must be to sleep on our streets. 

"I know that tomorrow night I will be back under a roof and in my bed - that, however, is not the reality for anyone else sleeping on the streets of our city tonight.

"Manchester's homeless strategy needs to be tackling the root causes of homelessness - before people end up on the streets, then getting them into homes.

"It is the single biggest crisis that we could, but choose not to tackle effectively."

The Sleepout takes place the same night Manchester welcomes back the world famous Christmas markets.

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