Gary Neville, Giggs let homeless trespassers stay at their property

Two years ago, Neville bought Manchester’s former stock exchange building, one of the city’s most historic structures, for 1.5 million pounds. But a group of squatters and housing activists called the Manchester Angels moved into the place without obtaining any permission.

In a show of goodwill, former Manchester United star Gary Neville has let a group of homeless people stay at a building that he had intended to transform into a luxurious hotel, Guardian >reported recently.

Two years ago, Neville bought Manchester’s former stock exchange building, one of the city’s most historic structures, for 1.5 million pounds.

He had planned to transform it into a private members' club, replete with spa, basement gym, and other luxuries. Neville and Ryan Giggs even obtained the permission for the project.

But a group of squatters and housing activists called >the Manchester Angels moved into the place without obtaining any permission. When Neville found out, he didn’t ring his lawyers to sue the virtually moneyless crowd, instead, he told: “From my point of view, I’m quite relaxed about this.”

Neville said he had always supported homeless people and had no problem with the activists using the hotel to house people during the cold winter months, according to Wesley Hall, a housing and human rights activist.

Neville has also said that he has offered support to homeless people he has seen on the street while walking through Manchester.

Hall and his fellow activists can now provide a number of amenities--a roof, hot food, health checkups, et al--for the homeless people.

“They are calling the initiative Operation Safe Winter, and have renamed the stock exchange the Sock Exchange, as they will be distributing clothing to the new occupants,” the Guardian report said.

According to surveys done by independent charitable organizations for homeless people, Empty Homes Agency and Crisis, there are currently 610,000 empty homes across the country and 7,581 has slept on the streets of London (16% more than last year).

“I can’t quite believe it. The whole thing is a dream come true,” said Hall. “We’ve got a real opportunity to do some intensive work with homeless people and make a big difference to their lives.”