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Number of people sleeping rough in Cambridge has gone up

The number of people sleeping rough in Cambridge has risen amid calls for more to be done to tackle homelessness in the city.

There are 27 rough sleepers in the city of Cambridge, according to figures released yesterday (Thursday, January 31) by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. This compares to 26 in 2017.

Number of people sleeping rough in Cambridge has gone up (6916697)
Number of people sleeping rough in Cambridge has gone up (6916697)

However, the situation is not as bad as it was in 2016 when there were 40 rough sleepers counted.

Of the 27 rough sleepers counted in 2018, none were thought to be under 18. One was aged between 18 and 25, while the majority were aged 26 or over. The ages of two rough sleepers are unknown.

No rough sleepers were recorded in South Cambridgeshire, but 23 were recorded in Fenland, with five being recorded in Huntingdonshire, and one in East Cambridgeshire.

The figures come from a count held on the streets in the early hours of November 23 last year.

Cllr Nichola Harrison, who co-authored a report into rough sleeping in Cambridge last year, said: “These scenes of human misery on our streets is something none of us should have to accept as normal.

“The whole city could surely agree on this. Whatever people’s politics, this situation can be improved by how we all respond together. There is no outward sign of much change it since this time last year.”

Cllr Richard Johnson, executive councillor for housing at Cambridge City Council, said that the city council was doing a good job, and was always looking to do more.

Cllr Johnson said: “It is correct that the figure is 27, up one compared to 2017, but it should be set in the context of previous years. There has been, nationwide, an increase of 13 per cent since 2016. In Cambridge, figures have gone down by a third in the same period.

“But we are not complacent, and we are continuing to do what we can to support those sleeping rough.”

Cllr Johnson said many rough sleepers had benefitted from additional nights where accommodation was put on under the council’s severe weather emergency provision (SWEP).

He said other organisations like Cambridge churches, Wintercomfort, and Jimmy’s Night Shelter, were also helping.

Cllr Johnson added that Cambridge Street Aid, which helps people donate to help homeless people, is making a positive difference.

Despite this, there are claims more needs to be done.

Lib Dem leader Tim Bick has made renewed calls for a Cambridge Charter on rough sleeping.

Cllr Bick said the charter would “deliver a clear expression of shared community purpose and commitment” which would give focus to efforts to help by the public, the council, and other organisations.

Cllr Bick and Cllr Harrison had called for a charter last year after they co-wrote a report on homelessness in the city.

“Many of our recommendations have been seriously examined and we intend to issue a further report on progress,” said Cllr Bick. “But our recommendation for a Charter so far has not. The system today is fragmented. It’s difficult for the public to know who is steering it.

“The whole subject of rough sleeping is too often treated like a ghost in the room for fear of being misunderstood. While this continues, Cambridge is underplaying its potential to make a positive difference to a tragic situation.”

Cllr Bick pointed to the example of Manchester, saying their charter had helped the local authority take a more effective stance on rough sleeping.”

Cllr Johnson, however, dismissed the calls, saying much of the work that would be included under a charter was already being done by the city council. He said it would not be a good use of resources to “duplicate” efforts.

Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner said the number of rough sleepers in Cambridge had seen “a steep rise since 2010” when only six rough sleepers were recorded.

Mr Zeichner said: “The number of people sleeping rough in our country has become a national shame, with rough sleeping 165 per cent higher than when the last Labour Government was in power. These figures speak for themselves, confirming what Cambridge people see on our streets every day. Our city council and voluntary agencies do a fine job, but confront a rising tide of misery caused by the government’s calamitous and callous welfare and housing policies.

“What people in cities like Cambridge want is far fewer people sleeping in precarious situations, whether that be on the street or in temporary accommodation, and they want to see a greater commitment from central government, not some far off promise to end rough sleeping 10 years from now.”

Cllr Bick added: “In any event, with all the effort that goes into addressing this problem here, the problem is getting no smaller. The council does need to be more open to new ideas and to learn from those towns and cities which have seen a significant reduction in these recent figures.”

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