Sixty homeless people were housed by Cambridge city council during the last lockdownLouis Ashworth/VARSITY

Homelessness organisation Streetbite has restarted food distribution in Cambridge after four months.

In an email seen by Varsity, volunteer coordinator Eric Anderson confirms that summer term shifts will be starting from 5th May, with evening distributions running from Wednesday-Sunday, as well as day time food preparation.

Founded by a group of students as ‘The Homeless Thing’, Streetbite has worked with homeless people in Cambridge since 1999, supporting around 100 people in the city centre.

During lockdown from December 2020- April this year, Cambridge city council did an “excellent job” according to Streetbite co-president Paul Heller, housing 60 rough sleepers in the ‘Master’s House’, an accommodation block rented from a local education authority.

The charity sent volunteers to help at the accommodation and temporarily halted its operations during this period, a decision that was made because there were “hardly any rough sleepers out during this period”, and because they “were advised by the council and other charities that it would be better not to create incentives for people to stay on the street”, according to Heller.

He told Varsity: “In some ways it was a shame to have to sit back and watch at an important time, but this was mostly because the council did an excellent job of getting people inside and providing them with support.”

While over sixty people were housed, the number has steadily decreased to around twenty, as residents have been found more permanent accommodation, have chosen to leave the block, or have been removed from the accommodation. This has led Streetbite to restart regular food distribution shifts.

However, Heller told Varsity that a shift in council planning could lead to a more permanent accommodation solution. He said that the city council is currently in a process of a “significant shift in its policy” towards homelessness, trying to “focus funding and efforts as much as possible towards things that will get people into housing and support them once they have been housed rather than maintain people on the street.”

“Current council funded services include things like hostels where people could stay overnight,” Heller added, “whereas the new focus funding would go to houses people can stay in more permanently.”


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He continued: “There is some hope that a permanent Master’s House-style set-up can be found, which would be an accommodation block that anybody can stay in for a period of up to three months.” During this time, the Council would work with the residents to plan for their own housing.

Under this new system, Streetbite would continue to adapt to find the best solution for homelessness in Cambridge.

“Our current work supports people on the street which is going out of fashion with this new focus,” Heller stated. He emphasised that the number of people on the street right now remains “unprecedentedly low”, and that there are currently nine verified rough sleepers in Cambridge.

He continues that: “There are difficult questions to be asked about whether this will fit in with the council’s long term strategy, or whether it encourages people to stay on the street. Currently we are operating the shifts because we think it is the right thing to do.”

“We are working closely with the Council and other charities in Cambridge to find the right niche for Streetbite and student work over the coming years.”

Students can volunteer with Streetbite at