Cambridge now has 14 contactless donation points across the cityLucas Chebib

This week has seen more contactless giving points established across Cambridge as part of the first ever Street Aid week. The money will go to Cambridge Street Aid who hope to raise £2,500 over the course of the week to support 10 people who face uncertainty in housing.

The charity operates by raising a fund that people can access by applying for grants, and by tapping their credit/debit cards or using their phones, people can donate £3 to this central fund.

Cambridge now has 14 of these contactless donation points, with 8 new ones installed this week. They can be found at Co-op stores such as the one on Histon Road, outside St. Paul’s Church, at the Grand Arcade shopping centre and in the reception of the Guildhall.

In conjunction with the new donation points, various events also took place in Cambridge as part of Street Aid week to raise awareness of homelessness. These included information stalls in Grand Arcade shopping centre and outside the Guildhall.

Commenting on the new Street Aid initiative a representative of the student group Cambridge Homeless Outreach Programme (CHOP) said, “Street Aid forms part of ‘broader service’ of homelessness help in Cambridge.”

They encouraged students to “recognise and interact with homeless individuals as individuals…”, citing one of the main causes of homelessness as “social isolation”.

CHOP also suggested that students can help by volunteering with local charities as they are “experts at dealing with homelessness,” an example being weekly pop up cafes at Wintercomfort where students can volunteer.

Since its inception in 2016, Street Aid has given 250 people grants totalling more than £66,000, according to statistics from Cambridge City Council. They are given to individuals who are currently homeless or have been homeless and must go towards something that would assist the individual in staying off the streets.

The individual must also be referred by an organisation that has already assessed their personal circumstances and can confirm that they need financial assistance which is unavailable elsewhere.

The council say that ‘every single penny’ given to Street Aid goes ‘directly’ to grants for individuals.


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However, some are critical of the new initiative. One regular volunteer at homeless charities who wishes to remain anonymous said, “there is a fundamental problem with StreetAid which is that it was set up to stop the public from giving money [directly] to the homeless.”

“Any ‘awareness raising’ going on this Week will probably only increase the stigma associated with being homeless - increasing the idea that all homeless people have a substance abuse problem.”

They also criticised the scheme for creating an “administrative stigma”.

“Homeless individuals need to apply to get a grant. Yet I think this is disturbing as it is a council project. This fits into a broader trend of austerity where benefits are given to claimants not based on need but based on merit.”

In response, Cambridge Street Aid said, “we do not seek to stigmatise people on the streets – quite the opposite. We understand that everyone is different and that what will help people turn a corner in their lives is different.”

“We are an alternative to giving money directly to people on the streets, but we don’t tell people what to do with their money. We have given grants to over 250 people... to help them cover housing costs, find work and improve their mental and physical wellbeing. We don’t look for ‘merit’ from our applicants... if they meet our criteria they can get a grant from us.”

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