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Council approves wide-ranging strategy to tackle root causes of homelessness and rough sleeping

News release from 28 January 2021

CAMBRIDGE City Council has made a firm commitment to continue its innovative approach to tackling and preventing homelessness and rough sleeping in Cambridge in the coming years through a wide-ranging new strategy. 

The council’s Housing Scrutiny Committee last week approved its Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy for 2021-26, and in addition recommended grants of just under £750,000 to partner organisations working on homelessness projects in Cambridge. 

The new Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy sets out how it will work with partners in the voluntary and community sector to meet the following key objectives: 

  • Preventing people from becoming homeless 
  • Where homelessness cannot be avoided, helping people to find suitable accommodation 
  • Minimising rough sleeping 
  • Ensuring housing outcomes for residents reflect the council’s vision: ‘One Cambridge, Fair For All.’ 

The new strategy will meet its four key objectives by focusing on six priority areas: 

  1. Supporting those at risk of homelessness to remain in their homes whenever possible or to find a new home without an intervening period of homelessness 
  2. Improving access to a range of permanent accommodation 
  3. Minimising the use of temporary and emergency accommodation 
  4. Improving access to, and effectiveness of, support services 
  5. Preventing rough sleeping 
  6. Breaking the cycle of chronic and repeat street homelessness and rough sleeping 

Some of the steps the council will now take, in line with the new strategy, include:  

  • Reducing the level of people being evicted by family and friends, through earlier interventions 
  • Exploring further tenancy rescue solutions for private tenants, including the potential for targeted grants and loans 
  • A fund of nearly £750,000 for 2020/21 for the benefit of homelessness prevention and relief  
  • Making the most of accommodation available in council properties 
  • Working with partners on a comprehensive ‘Streets to Home’ service to help people sleeping rough get off the streets rapidly and into accommodation with assistance from a dedicated link worker to break the cycle of street homelessness 
  • 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 
  • 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, modular homes and housing association leased modular homes 
  • A ‘Housing First’ programme for the benefit of long-term rough sleepers 
  • A dedicated street-life partnership group set up to help enduring rough sleepers into accommodation.  

The objectives and priorities align with the council’s overall objectives, such as tackling the shortage of affordable housing through its ongoing programme of building more than 1000 new council homes. 

The new Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy builds on the successful work undertaken in recent years by the council and its partners to address homelessness and rough sleeping in Cambridge, which has included: 

  • Vastly improving access to the private rented sector for families 
  • Consistently increasing, year on year the outcomes for households who are threatened with homelessness  
  • Helping many households who have been served with S21 (‘no fault’) eviction notices to negotiate extra time to plan a move  
  • Providing financial support to top up shortfalls in Housing Benefit, whilst working with households to improve their income and longer-term employment prospects (the ‘HB+’ scheme) 
  • Achieving coveted accreditation by the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) as a housing authority that supports survivors of domestic abuse 

The approval of the new strategy came in the same week as the 100th former rough sleeper in Cambridge was found secure longer-term accommodation since moving on from emergency Covid accommodation.  

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, under the ‘Everyone In’ initiative, the council has made a total of 280 offers of secure emergency Covid accommodation to people who had been sleeping rough or were vulnerably housed. 

Cllr Richard Johnson, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “People often see homelessness as mainly a problem for those seen sleeping on the streets. But there are many more Cambridge households experiencing housing stress such as those living in poor or overcrowded conditions; private tenants unsure whether their lease will be renewed; people living in hostels; people forced to leave their homes because of domestic abuse; the ‘hidden homeless’ sleeping on friends’ sofas because they have nowhere else to go. The list goes on.  

“This new Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy outlines how we intend to work in partnership with others to help prevent as many people as possible from experiencing the misery of becoming homelessness.  

“Our council house building programme is part of the solution, as is work with developers to bring forward new affordable homes. But it is not just about building. It is also about ensuring that the right support is available - to help people to remain in their homes or to find alternative accommodation where necessary.” 

At last week’s meeting of the council’s Housing Scrutiny Committee, local organisations including Cambridge Cyrenians, Cambridge Housing Society, Cambridge Women’s Aid, Centre 33, It Takes A City, Jimmy’s, Riverside Housing and Wintercomfort were recommended for city council Homelessness Prevention Grants to help fund their activities in 2021-22. These are subject to approval of the Council’s overall budget on 25 February. 

Chris Jenkin, Chair of It Takes A City, said: “The new Homelessness and Rough Sleeping strategy provides a comprehensive and ambitious set of plans and actions that should sustain and build on the successful strategies of ‘Everybody In’, which have brought many people off the street and into accommodation for the first time. 

“Partnership working is key to this, and It Takes A City looks forward to continuing to leverage the very significant willingness of people and organisations across the wider community in Cambridge to work together to offer support, housing and employment, enabling those with no home to have not just a house, but somewhere to call home.”