SINCE the start of the Covid-19 lockdown, Cambridge City Council and its partners in the community have found safe accommodation for more than 140 people who had been sleeping rough or were at risk of homelessness.
The council and its partners have provided self-isolating accommodation for local rough sleepers. This has included council properties, as well as other properties owned by hoteliers, bed and breakfast providers, colleges and some private landlords.
Each of the rooms provided have given people the opportunity to self-isolate as per the government guidelines, with their own washing facilities.
Throughout the lockdown period food has been provided to the people being accommodated three times a day, alongside other supplies, support for physical, substance misuse and mental health issues, and help to get people back into work or back in touch with their families.
There have recently been reports in the press about whether government will be providing full financial assistance to councils for their work in providing emergency accommodation. The council is awaiting clarification, but in the meantime, it has confirmed to all residents concerned that it will continue to support them in their current accommodation no matter what the government decides, while working with them to help them move into more permanent accommodation as soon as possible.
The council has been working with organisations supporting rough sleepers to develop support and longer-term rehousing plans for all those in accommodation and a number of people have already been successfully moved on. The council is looking at a broad range of housing options across the public, private and voluntary sectors and is working with Cambridgeshire County Council and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government to ensure that people have the support they need when moving on.
Sadly, a small minority who were found accommodation have chosen not to remain in it. Many of the rough sleepers the council works with have significant physical and mental health challenges, or long-standing addiction problems. Nobody can be compelled to accept or remain in accommodation offered to them, with some people who are used to being part of a street-based community finding it very difficult to remain in accommodation off the streets.
This has meant that a few people who behaved dangerously in their accommodation have had to be moved to other accommodation.
In a very small number of cases the council has had to take the difficult decision not to offer further accommodation at this time to people who have twice been evicted for dangerous behaviour. However, individuals in this situation will still be helped to find the appropriate support and longer-term accommodation they need.
Services on the streets for rough sleepers are continuing to operate, but in a way that ensures safe distancing and on a scale that reflects that most rough sleepers are now in accommodation.
The council continues to work closely with these services to ensure any people still sleeping rough are kept safe by offering the routes to housing and support that they need. Anyone concerned about somebody they think may be sleeping rough at this time can notify the council via the website www.streetlink.org.uk or by phoning Streetlink on 0300 500 0914.
In the meantime, the council’s broader Housing Advice services continue. If any resident is threatened with homelessness during the current period, they can contact the council on 01223 457918.
Cllr Richard Johnson, Executive Councillor for Housing said: “The effort to find accommodation for everyone who needs it, and to keep people safe there, has involved a huge joint effort by public bodies, charities, faith groups and volunteers across Cambridge and I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved in any way.
“Our next aim is to ensure that all of the vulnerable people we have been working with over recent weeks are able to move on with their lives and find a solution to their housing situation, and ongoing support with any health or personal issues that they may have.”