MORE than £37,000 has so far been donated to Cambridge Street Aid to help vulnerable people get off, or stay off the streets.
In the last two years the charitable fund, which is supported by Cambridge City Council, has paid out nearly 140 grants to help people who have experienced rough sleeping with support, accommodation and employment to make a difference to their lives.
Money donated to Cambridge Street Aid by residents, businesses or visitors to Cambridge goes towards grants of up to £750 to help people on the streets, many of whom are experiencing complex issues affecting their health and well-being.
Examples of how some recent grants have been used include:
- To fund a second hand laptop to help a long-term homeless woman study to become a nurse;
- To pay for a health and safety qualification and a construction card, so that a formerly homeless man can get a construction job;
- Allowing someone to purchase a passport and replacement birth certificate so they can open a bank account;
- Paying for safety boots and shoes so a previously homeless man can start a manual job
- Subsidising the cost of a travel fare home so that a man sleeping rough in Cambridge could return to his family to be accommodated and cared for;
- Providing someone with a warm winter coat;
Cambridge Street Aid was established two years ago to provide anyone wishing to help vulnerable people on the streets of Cambridge with an alternative to handing over cash directly.
People can donate to the fund by text, online, by post, or by visiting the two ‘contactless’ donation points which were installed in the city centre earlier this year. These are located in the window of the council’s Customer Service Centre at Mandela House, Regent Street and inside the Visitor Information Centre on the Peas Hill side of the Guildhall.
[Update, 10 January 2019: Donations can no longer be made at the visitor information centre.]
Studies have suggested that giving cash on the street, while generous, can significantly reduce the chances of people getting off the streets permanently.
The council works with local organisations who provide more than 500 beds in Cambridge for people at risk of sleeping rough, including 300 for single homeless people in hostels and other accommodation. This is a very high figure compared to the population of Cambridge as a whole.
Between 1 November and 1 April the council also works with its partners to provide additional emergency accommodation for rough sleepers during bad weather, under the Severe Weather Emergency Provision (SWEP).
This winter 29 additional beds will be provided when the weather turns bad, and an additional 17 beds will be provided from December by the Cambridge Churches Homelessness Project. While an independent initiative, the churches work closely with the council and its partners in support of the overall severe weather effort.
This year, for the first time, the 20 beds provided for male rough sleepers under the severe weather initiative will be hosted from the Salvation Army Community Centre on Mill Road, allowing the service to be better managed and targeted. Six beds (and more if demand determines) will continue to be provided exclusively for female rough sleepers at Jimmy’s main centre on East Road.
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;
- Ensuring up to 40 council or housing association tenancies a year are available exclusively for former rough sleepers or those at risk of rough sleeping.
Earlier this year received additional government funding for a programme of assistance for people on the streets. This programme is allowing late-night patrols by the police and other agencies to assist rough sleepers, direct them to where safe beds are available and provide them with a support worker to help find a permanent housing solution.
The council has also recently produced a pocket-sized fold-out booklet which provides information about the range of services available in Cambridge for people on the streets. It is aimed at rough sleepers themselves or anyone concerned about rough sleepers. Individuals or organisations can obtain copies of the booklet by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 01223 457918.
Cllr Richard Johnson, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “The funds generated by the many kind donations to Cambridge Street Aid are continuing to make a significant difference to some people who have experienced sleeping rough on the streets.
“As cold weather approaches, this is just one of the many ways we are working with our partners to deal with the complex issue of people sleeping rough on the streets of Cambridge, and to give people the support they need to get off and stay off the streets.
Major Martin Cordner, Salvation Army Commanding Officer, said: “Cambridge Salvation Army is committed to social justice for the most marginalised people in society. We believe every person is entitled to basic provisions such as food and shelter, so are very pleased to be working alongside Jimmy's and Cambridge City Council to help deliver SWEP in Cambridge this year.”
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