CAMBRIDGE City Council’s strong support for people sleeping rough will continue as England undergoes its second coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
The council responded to the first lockdown by making more than 200 offers of emergency accommodation and, at its peak, placing 140 people in self-isolating accommodation.
This included council properties, as well as others owned by hoteliers, bed and breakfast providers, colleges and some private landlords.
Some 76 people have moved into longer-term housing while 60 remain in emergency accommodation.
The council is ensuring that all of the support services available earlier in the year remain in place during the second lockdown.
As before, people sleeping rough will be offered rooms with their own washing facilities where they can self-isolate in line with government guidelines if need be.
Once again, as with the first lockdown, food, face coverings and hand sanitisers will be provided, alongside other supplies and support for physical, substance misuse and mental health issues, and help to get people back into work or back in touch with their families.
The council’s homeless and rough sleeping services include:
- Conducting assessments of individuals’ support and accommodation needs and assessing the help partners can continue to offer;
- Continuing help for people with a range of needs, some of which are extremely complex, to make the most of the accommodation options that are available including hostels, pods and housing association leased pods;
- Making the most of accommodation available in council properties;
- Making accommodation available through the private rented sector via the council’s ‘Social Lettings Agency’, Town Hall Lettings (THL). This involves council officers actively approaching private landlords and suppliers of student accommodation to ask what accommodation they can provide;
- Freeing up temporary accommodation by offering direct lets to households via the council or housing associations to enable others to take their place;
- A ‘Housing First’ programme for the benefit of long-term rough sleepers;
- A £750,000 fund for 2020/21 for the benefit of homelessness prevention and relief;
- A dedicated street-life partnership group set up to help enduring rough sleepers into accommodation;
- An extended Street Outreach service, which now operates on weekday evenings between 6pm and 8pm.
Additionally, as in previous years, the council and its partners have put in place extra help under the Severe Weather Emergency Provision (SWEP).
SWEP is implemented at 36 hours’ notice if the weather turns colder and it is funded by the council and managed by Jimmy’s Cambridge and Cambridge Churches Homeless Project (CCHP).
The plan provides individuals with free, self-contained, coronavirus-safe accommodation and support to help them off the streets.
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. Sadly, a small minority who were found accommodation have chosen not to remain in it.
Cllr Richard Johnson, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “People who sleep rough are vulnerable and need our support and we will always offer them help.
“With our partners we can help in many different ways and I am pleased that we have been able to support so many individuals through this toughest of times.
“Now we are in a second lockdown we remain focused on working with local charities, faith groups and volunteers to provide accommodation for those who had been living on the streets.
“If someone is in need we are here to help them with their housing situation and support any health or personal issues they may have.”
There are many ways residents can help rough sleepers including by donating to charity, volunteering their time, providing employment opportunities for former rough sleepers, or even letting their homes out through the council’s social lettings agency Town Hall Lettings.
However, there are three things that Cambridge residents can do to help in particular:
- Report if someone is sleeping rough via Streetlink by calling 0300 500 0914 or visiting www.streetlink.org.uk
- Donate to Cambridge Street Aid, the charitable fund helping people to get off, and stay off, the streets. This can be done via one of the many contactless giving points in the city or via the online giving page: www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/cambridgeshirecommunity/csa
- Visit the new Street Support website for further details of the services operating in the city: https://streetsupport.net/cambridge/
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.
The council works with a range of 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.