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Lib Dems propose homeless mentor scheme in city budget

By Ben Comber

The scheme is being championed by a Lib Dem councillor and mother of a former Cambridge rough sleeper.

The scheme, which would see a network of peer support to individuals struggling to get their lives in order, is a Lib Dem budget proposal on Cambridge City Council.

The city’s mounting crisis has been marked by the doubling of rough sleepers in the council’s annual count last November, many of them suffering from addictions and mental health problems which makes progress into hostels and normal tenancies very challenging.

The government has responded by funding a new “dual dependency team” of clinicians to work on the streets.

Lib Dem Cllr Jennifer Page-Croft for Queen Edith’s ward has good reason to strongly back this plan. Her son Kieran spent over 3 years sleeping rough in Cambridge, going in and out of hostels – though fortunately did not suffer addictions. As any anxious mum, Jennifer is happy that Kieran has now straightened his life out and has himself become a father, living in London. But she remembers how important the urging and helping of friends was in the process of Kieran’s path back from the streets.

“The help and advice available, though it’s often good, can also be very fragmented,” she said. “There are lots of people involved. The addition of this new clinical team is very welcome, but it won’t change the situation on its own. It won’t reduce the huge effort of willpower and determination needed to re-order your life. That is where this peer support scheme comes in. It shouldn’t be limited to a stay in a particular hostel or a particular specialist team, but should be there across the whole period of someone’s journey back. A hand to hold – not an official”

The Lib Dem plan would place a network of trained volunteers to act as mentors, who would follow individuals through the system, boosting their motivation and resolve.

They believe that volunteers who have ‘been there themselves’, offering personal, friendly and non-bureaucratic support could be especially effective at helping rough sleepers – as well as solidifying their own progress.


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