Gary Neville has helped a group of homeless people by allowing them to take shelter in the old Manchester stock exchange, which the football star bought two years ago. He obtained planning permission to turn the historic site into a boutique hotel, with the help of his friend Ryan Giggs, but the pair have decided to open up the space to the homeless for the winter.
On Sunday the hotel was occupied by the Manchester Angels, a group of squatters and housing activists.
Gary, 40, gave the group their blessing to stay until February, on the condition that they do not cause damage to the building and allow workmen to come in and out as needed. Gary bought the site for a reported £1.5million in March 2013.
Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville gave a group of homeless people their blessing to temporarily move into a hotel they bought in 2013
Wesley Hall, who heads the activist group, spoke to Gary over the phone and thanked the football coach for his generosity. He described his plan of action for "Operation Safe Winter" and renamed the old stock exchange the "Sock Exchange" as clothing will be distributed to the needy.
"Thank you so much – you don't understand what you have done for us," Wesley repeatedly told Gary, The Guardian reports.
"We are going to do everything properly. 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."
Gary, who has helped the homeless in Manchester for the past ten years, said he was "relaxed" about the squatters moving in
Wesley has ordered smoke alarms to be fitted into the building to keep the activists safe. He also suggested to Gary, who for the past ten years has helped homeless people in the Greater Manchester area, that the footballer may want to employ some of the homeless to help with manual labour in the hotel.
"I can't quite believe it. The whole thing is a dream come true," said Wesley, who is also reportedly pitching the idea of a charity football game to Gary. "We've got a real opportunity to do some intensive work with homeless people and make a big difference to their lives."
And as for Christmas Day, Wesley is hoping that celebrity chefs will follow in Gary's footsteps and lend a hand to provide a festive lunch for the squatters.
Former Manchester United player Gary plans to convert the old stock exchange into a 35-bed boutique hotel complete with a basement spa and gym, a rooftop private members' terrace and a ground-floor bar and restaurant.