MORE than £32,000 has so far been donated to Cambridge Street Aid to help vulnerable people get off, or stay off the streets.
The charitable fund, which is supported by Cambridge City Council, has now paid out nearly 90 grants totalling more than £29,000 to help people with the support, accommodation and employment they may need in order to make a positive difference to their lives.
The money donated by residents, businesses and visitors to the city goes towards grants of up to £750 to help people on the streets.
Examples of how grants have so far been used include:
- To pay for equipment so a formerly homeless man can set up his own cleaning business;
- Allowing one person to buy new clothing so he can join groups and courses with confidence, and lessen the chance of his returning to a street lifestyle;
- Helping someone pay advance rent on the first home they have had in many years;
- Paying for a bicycle to help a formerly homeless man travel to a new job;
- Subsidising the cost of construction certificates to enable people to work on building sites;
- Paying for essential household items for people moving into homes. One grant went towards a second hand laptop and broadband connection for a former rough sleeper. This helped prevent isolation after he made the decision to reduce contact with former acquaintances who had linked him to antisocial and detrimental behaviour.
Cambridge Street Aid was established in 2016 to provide anyone wishing to help vulnerable people on the streets of Cambridge with an alternative to handing over cash directly.
Studies have suggested that giving cash on the street, while generous, can significantly reduce the chances of people getting off the streets permanently, especially if it is spent on alcohol or drugs.
A total of 26 people were identified as sleeping rough in Cambridge at an annual count late last year, compared with 40 people at the same time the previous year. Although this is only an approximate figure, the result indicates that action taken by the council and its partners is having a positive effect on the lives of rough sleepers.
In addition to supporting Cambridge Street Aid, the council and other Cambridge organisations provide a range of services for rough sleepers, homeless people and those at risk of homelessness. These include:
- Giving more than £700,000 a year in grants to charities and services helping homeless people and people on the street, with all the major local homelessness charities receive some funding from the council.
- Maintaining strong links with local homeless charities Jimmy’s Cambridge, Wintercomfort, Change Grow Live (which provides a street outreach service), Riverside Care and Support, Cambridge Cyrenians, the Cambridge Churches Homelessness Project, and a range of other providers. These organisations help the council set priorities for work to assist street people and rough sleepers.
- Working with local organisations which provide over 500 beds, of which 300 are for single homeless people in hostels and other accommodation – a very high figure compared to the population of Cambridge as a whole.
- Ensuring up to 40 council or housing association tenancies a year are available exclusively for former rough sleepers are ready to move on from hostel accommodation.
- Working with a range of enforcement agencies and initiating a series of patrols intended to deter begging, and to let the public know how best they can help people on the streets.
- Working with our partners to provide emergency accommodation for rough sleepers during bad weather between 1 November and 1 April. During the last winter 48 additional beds were made available, and the Severe Weather Emergency Provision was in place for 59 nights – the highest figure since this began in Cambridge.
Cllr Kevin Price, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “I am very pleased that Cambridge Street Aid is continuing to make a real difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our community.
“Street Aid is just one of the many ways we are working with our partners to deal with the very complex issue of people sleeping rough, and give them the support they need to get off the streets.
“The public’s generosity in giving to the Street Aid fund has already made a real difference to many people’s lives and I would like to thank everyone who has made a donation.
To donate to Cambridge Street Aid people can either text ‘CAMB16’ followed by the amount they wish to donate to 70070 (for example ‘CAMB16 £5’), or can do so online at http://www.cambscf.org.uk/cambridge-street-aid.html