Giving gets easier for Cambridge homeless charity
Giving points' have been installed in Cambridge as a new way of helping the city's homelessness charitable fund.
Two terminals have been installed by the city council – one outside the customer service centre at Mandela House on St Andrew’s Street, the other inside the visitor information centre on Peas Hill.
Donations can be made with contactless cards and smartphones, and it is hoped that the ease of use will be a boost for Cambridge Street Aid, which gives grants of up to £750 to help people on the streets.
The authority’s head of housing, Cllr Kevin Price, said: “The generosity of people donating to Cambridge Street Aid has been fantastic, and the fund has made a real difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”
Since its launch in 2016, Cambridge Street Aid has made 108 grants totalling more than £35,000.
Mark Siequien was homeless after being released from prison and with no address to go, he spent years living on the streets of Cambridge. He was eventually housed through Wintercomfort and started selling the Big Issue outside Cambridge railway station. A regular customer, who works in Mandela House, told him about the Street Aid funds.
“For a homeless guy being given a few pounds here and there, it’s very difficult to accumulate a large sum of money,” Mark said. “But the thing you need to get on with life will likely cost a relatively large amount.”
With a grant from Street Aid, Mark was able to buy the computer that he needed to start a business using his passion for photography.
“When I was selling Big Issues outside the train station, a lot of my regulars worked at Mandela House and one of them remembered me telling them about my pictures.
“One of the amazing things about Wintercomfort is they continue to work with you even when you have been housed. I got in touch with my key worker and we went through the application together. It was very easy.
“Street Aid bought me a computer so that I could sort through all my photos. I have sold some to the Big Issue who put some on the front cover and in the centre spread.
“If you’re worried about giving money to a homeless person, just spend five minutes talking to them and you’ll quickly find out what it is they need. Don’t assume that because they are homeless they will spend it on alcohol or drugs. You might find that what they really need is a jumper, and you have something at home that can help them.
“If you’re not comfortable doing that then Street Aid is the best way to help.”
Grants have so far been used to help someone apply for a passport renewal to help them open a bank account and make bank applications, to pay for equipment so a formerly homeless man could set up his own cleaning business, and to enable one person to buy new clothes so he had the confidence to join useful groups and courses.
They have also helped people with tenancy deposits and qualification subsidies.
James Martin, of homeless charity Wintercomfort, said: “We have used the fund for many innovative solutions, ranging from enabling rough sleepers to move into accommodation with the furnishings we all take for granted, to helping people gain the qualification and equipment they need to start work.
“Without the Street Aid fund many of these initiatives would not have been possible.”