CAMBRIDGE City Council has provided an additional 36 nights’ emergency accommodation for rough sleepers so far this winter.
The Severe Weather Emergency Provision (SWEP), funded by the council and managed by Jimmy’s Cambridge, gives individuals free accommodation and support to help them off the streets of Cambridge. There are places available in the city for all rough sleepers during SWEP, and people not taking advantage of this provision are encouraged to do so by the council and partners.
So far this year, 75 different individuals have made use of SWEP, with most individuals staying for four nights or fewer. Figures show that on its busiest night (29 January), 21 individuals accessed the provision, out of a total of 29 available bed spaces.
In addition, up to 17 individuals are currently housed by the Cambridge Churches Homeless Project, which works in partnership with the council to provide additional shelter between the beginning of November and the end of March.
The council’s strategic response to rough sleeping and single homelessness goes far beyond providing winter bed-spaces, including:
- The creation of a new “Housing First” programme for the benefit of long-term rough sleepers;
- A £700,000 fund for 2019/20 for the benefit of homelessness prevention and relief;
- A dedicated street-life partnership group set up to help enduring rough sleepers into accommodation;
- The continued development of Street Aid, a charitable fund which helps vulnerable people get off or stay off the streets;
- A dedicated homelessness prevention officer with a specific remit towards prison and hospital leavers;
- A social lettings agency (Townhall Lettings) set up to provide shared accommodation for single homeless people, and a Single Homelessness Service that has housed over 450 local people since its inception.
Further initiatives will be announced in the coming months. In the meantime, SWEP beds will continue to be provided through the weekend until at least Monday next week. Further SWEP alerts will be made via the council’s Twitter and Facebook pages.
The cold weather coincides with the release of national rough sleeping figures, based on a snapshot taken in the autumn of 2018. In Cambridge, the street count recorded one additional rough sleeper compared with 2017, against a national reduction of 2% in rough sleeper numbers. The figure of 27 is down 32% from 2016, set against a nationwide increase of 13% over the same period.
Cllr Richard Johnson, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “Alongside partner agencies and organisations, the city council is committed to providing support for those who are sleeping rough in Cambridge, taking into full account the specific needs of the individual and their circumstances.
“In the event our severe weather protocol is triggered, extra beds are made available to anyone who needs one, and assistance is on hand during this time - and throughout the year - for those who need help in finding a path out of homelessness and into secure accommodation.”
Major Martin Cordner, Commanding Officer at the Salvation Army Cambridge, said “The Salvation Army in Cambridge has really been 'swept' off its feet by SWEP. It's the first time we've been involved so we weren't sure how things would go.
“However, we're enjoying working alongside staff from Jimmy's, and are thrilled at the number of rough sleepers who have been helped through the programme. It just proves what can be achieved when organisations stand shoulder to shoulder with each other.”
Anyone sleeping rough in Cambridge city should approach Jimmy’s either in person (at 1 East Road CB1 1BD), by telephone (01223 576085) or via their support worker.
How you can help
If you see someone sleeping rough, you can inform the CGL Street Outreach team on 01223 366292 or via the Streetlink website. You can also direct them to a team of advisers during the housing advice opening hours, or to Jimmy’s Cambridge. In an out-of-hours housing emergency you can call us on 0844 335 3944. If you see someone who is in need of immediate medical attention, call 999 or 111 (with option 2 for a mental health crisis).
Case study from a current Jimmy’s guest who initially accessed SWEP
Jordan (J) was sleeping rough after leaving prison. J has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, was sectioned and spent a brief spell in hospital. J was informed of Jimmy’s by individuals on the street whereupon he was assessed and referred into the SWEP service. He accessed SWEP for three consecutive nights before getting a bed at the Assessment Centre.
J remarked on his relief in swiftly being offered a SWEP bed and subsequent Jimmy’s bed space. J stated that he would not have coped being on the street and feeling as isolated as he was, feared for his safety from the cold and the effects his circumstances were having on his mental health.
He is engaging well with Jimmy’s resettlement team and has agreed on referrals being sent to supported accommodation providers.
Finally, J said that he is “looking forwards not backwards for the first time in a long time”.