Funding priority will also be given to homelessness outreachSIMON LOCK

Cambridge City Council is set to launch a number of new initiatives for tackling homelessness in the city, after a successful bid for funding from the government.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s grant of £486,457 will go towards enhancing current projects and developing new ones such as the creation of nine new paid roles to support current and former rough sleepers.

A 2018 report found Cambridge is the UK’s most unequal city, with a fifth of the population earning just 2% of the city’s total income. Homeless deaths in Cambridge are twice the national average, while the latest figures show on average one Cambridgeshire family becomes homeless every five hours.

“We anticipate this will have a positive immediate impact on homelessness in the city,” Richard Johnson, the City Council’s Executive Councillor for Housing, told Varsity.

“It provides enhanced support options for people on the street, new pathways for people to leave… and to stay off the street.″

The funding complements £750,000 already earmarked by the Council for addressing homelessness, and will extend seven existing roles beyond March 2021 in addition to the nine new positions.

“I’m thrilled by the news,” said Roshni Atwal, President of Streetbite, a Cambridge student-run society, which distributes hot food and drinks to the city’s homeless community and aims to develop relationships with them.

Atwal added how important it is that “more funding is being allocated to services that have been underfunded and overstretched for so long”.

The new roles will primarily support current and former homeless people in 34 new units of accommodation, situated all around the city in clusters of five or six, with the first units expected to be ready by this summer.

These will take the form of modular homes, temporary units housing one person, and shared houses for two individuals.

In November, the City Council announced plans to deliver six of these modular homes in the city, working jointly with development firm Allia and Cambridge homelessness charity Jimmy’s.

Responding to the new funding, Jimmy’s Communications and Communities Officer Barry Griffiths said the organisation “always welcomes new and innovative ideas to support individuals off the streets of Cambridge”.

“We will work with Cambridge City Council and other partners around the City to improve services to those who find themselves on the streets.”


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The funding will also go towards a new mentoring scheme that has been created in partnership with It Takes a City, a Cambridge homelessness support network made up of nine organisations.

The scheme will recruit Cambridge volunteers to develop close relationships upon the basis of shared interests and skills, and integrate rough sleepers into the city’s wider community.

Speaking to Varsity, It Takes a City Chair Mark Jenkin said “just providing a key is not enough” to eradicate homelessness, which requires “the right level of support to make the journey from street to house and then to flourish”.

“A house is not a home unless it is within community, affordable, appropriately supported, safe and suitable. We are looking for the whole community to come together and deliver the housing and support solutions needed,” he added.

However, both Jenkin and Johnson stressed a lot more funding would be needed to achieve these objectives.

“Austerity...has led to public sector bodies like the NHS, and local authorities in particular, being starved of the funds necessary to properly address the causes and effects of homelessness,” said Johnson.

He warned more “resources and funding to cash-strapped councils and public bodies” are necessary before homelessness is resolved, noting Cambridge City Council no longer even receives regular funding from the government.

Funding priority will also be given to homelessness outreach, in helping rough sleepers access accommodation, and provide street-based health services through employing three new specialist nurses and one substance misuse outreach worker.

Rough sleepers in new tenancies will be given some money too, in line with the Council’s ‘Housing First’ Strategy.

Housing First is a programme first pioneered in the US in the 1980s, and involves immediately moving rough sleepers into permanent homes before addressing other personal issues rather than moving homeless people through different ‘levels’ of housing first.

Cambridgeshire County Council announced on Wednesday it would also receive a separate grant of £230,000 towards implementing its Housing First approach, after a previously successful pilot it had led jointly with the City Council.

Townhall Lettings, the Council’s social letting agency which aims to provide housing for single homeless people, will receive an additional boost by the funding, including introducing a new out-of-hours service for landlords.

Johnson hopes this will both help in “reducing rough sleeping and freeing space at Jimmy’s and the hostels”.

He also argues “there are a number of things that any individual in the city can do to help”.

The Council recommends individuals donate to Cambridge Street Aid, visit the Street Support website for information on homelessness services in the city, and report someone who is sleeping rough via Streetlink at 0300 500 0914.