Helping rough sleepers becomes easier as Cambridge Street Aid goes contactless

News release from 18/07/2018

PEOPLE wishing to donate to Cambridge Street Aid, the charitable fund which helps vulnerable people get off or stay off the streets, can now do so quickly and easily at new contactless ‘giving points’.

Two giving point terminals have been installed by Cambridge City Council outside the customer service centre at Mandela House on St Andrew’s Street, and inside the Visitor Information Centre, situated on the Peas Hill side of the Guildhall.

The new terminals mean that people can quickly and easily donate money to Cambridge Street Aid using contactless debit or credit cards, or smartphones – 24 hours a day in the case of the Mandela House terminal, and any time during the Visitor Information Centre’s regular opening hours.

Since being launched in 2016, Cambridge Street Aid has paid out 108 grants totalling more than £35,000 to help give people the support, accommodation and employment assistance they may need in order to make a positive difference to their lives.

It was established to give anyone wishing to help vulnerable people on the streets of Cambridge an alternative to handing over cash directly. According to studies by leading charities including Thames Reach, giving cash to people on the street can significantly reduce the chances of them getting off the streets permanently.

All donations to the fund from residents, businesses and visitors to the city go towards individual grants of up to £750 to help people on the streets.

Examples of how grants have so far been used include:

  • Helping someone apply for a passport renewal to help them open a bank account and make bank applications;
  • Paying for new shoes and for mobile phones to help people retain contact with their families, and to engage with homelessness charities and agencies who have helped them in the past, in order to boost their mental well-being;
  • 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 people pay deposits and advance rent on new tenancies;
  • Subsidising the cost of construction certificates to enable people to work on building sites;
  • Paying for white goods and other essential household items for people moving into new homes.

Cllr Kevin Price, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “Introducing contactless giving terminals is another innovative way we are working with our partners to encourage more people to give to the Cambridge Street Aid fund, to help reduce and prevent rough sleeping and the threat of homelessness.

“The generosity of people donating to Cambridge Street Aid has been fantastic, and the fund has made a real difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”

Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge Business Improvement District (BID), which has supported and helped fund Cambridge Street Aid since its inception, said: “The contactless terminals are an excellent idea, making it quicker and easier for people to donate to the fund and help vulnerable people. This very worthwhile project ensures the public’s generosity is properly directed and makes a genuine difference to the lives of rough sleepers and beggars in the city.”

Michael O’Toole, CEO of Cambridgeshire Community Foundation, said: “As a way to help people, Cambridge Street Aid is brilliant. Street Aid works with all the major agencies in Cambridge helping people on the street, so to give to Street Aid is to give to all. Also, and possibly the biggest advantage is that Street Aid doesn’t fund organisations, it funds individuals in need. So because all Street Aid’s administration costs are covered outside of the fund, you can be sure that every penny you donate goes to helping someone.”

James Martin of Wintercomfort said: “Wintercomfort have found the Street Aid fund an invaluable resource to help the people using our service move forward in their lives.  We have used the fund for many innovative solutions ranging from enabling rough sleepers to move into accommodation with the furnishings we all take for granted to helping people gain the qualification and equipment they need to start work.  Without the Street Aid fund many of these initiatives would not have been possible.”

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 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.

Other ways to donate to Cambridge Street Aid are by texting ‘CAMB16’ followed by the amount people wish to donate to 70070 (for example ‘CAMB16 £5’), or online via http://www.cambscf.org.uk/cambridge-street-aid.html

For more information on Cambridge Street Aid visit www.cambridge.gov.uk/alternative-giving-campaign

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