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City Centre Rough Sleeping

Meeting: 05/07/2018 - West Central Area Committee (Item 16)

16 City Centre Rough Sleeping pdf icon PDF 1 MB

Councillors Bick and Harrison will present their report on Rough Sleeping and Street life issues (copy attached) and David Greening (Head of Housing Services, Cambridge City Council) will comment on the City Council’s response, reflecting the report considered at the Housing Scrutiny Committee on 19 June 2018 as agreed by the Executive Councillor.


The Committee received a report from Councillors Bick and Harrison regarding City Centre rough sleeping.


The Committee made the following comments in response to the report:

  i.  There was a need to persuade members of the public to give money to Street Aid (charity) as an alternative to giving money to beggars. This unintentionally funded drug dealing rather than helped homeless people.

  ii.  Generally expressed support for the Cambridge Charter to re-invigorate stakeholders and the public to work in a more co-ordinated way to address issues. Some councillors expressed concern that pursuing a charter may put bureaucracy in the way of taking action.

  iii.  Rough sleeping was a particular issue for the West/Central area of Cambridge. Queried who to alert about rough sleepers.

  iv.  Rough sleeping was not always caused by a lack of housing. Some individuals were choosing not to use the shelters available. How do we help individuals to make good choices?

  v.  The number of homeless people was rising as a result of Central Government policies such as austerity. It was difficult for people to claim benefits or help eg Universal Credit required a bank account (which people may not have due to no fixed abode).


In response to the report a member of the public said there was a need to educate tourists not to give money to beggars. Suggested putting information in hotels.


The Head of Housing made the following comments in response to the report:

  i.  There was a need to promote Street Aid.

  ii.  The first contactless terminal for people to donate money to Street Aid was in place at the Tourist Information Centre. More would be rolled out in future in other locations.

  iii.  A Street Aid Co-ordinator was now in place.

  iv.  A successful bid had been made for Central Government funding so the City Council could support the Police with out of hours services.

  v.  Housing First was slow to get up and running. The City Council was in discussion with Central Government to expand the programme.

  vi.  The Council was undertaking work to address homelessness eg outreach work.

 vii.  There was a need to review outreach services to see if they were still needed and/or fit for purpose. This was complicated when the council worked with delivery partners.

viii.  Peer mentoring schemes were hard to set up and resource intensive, so not currently supported.

  ix.  Aside from substance addiction, the biggest problem in Cambridge was the flow into street counts ie number of rough sleepers. It was difficult to calculate this figure as the number of rough sleepers varied frequently.


Action Point: Follow up report to be added to agenda for future WCAC to review how recommendations were being taken forward from July report.

Meeting: 19/06/2018 - Housing Scrutiny Committee (Item 29)

29 City Centre Rough Sleeping pdf icon PDF 1 MB


This item was Chaired by Councillor Mike Todd-Jones


Public Speaker

Chris Jenkins, Trustee of Hope Cambridge (Cambridge Churches Homeless Project) addressed the committee and made the following comments:

  i.  Hope Cambridge works with a number of partners on various projects.

  ii.  Aims were to help people off the streets.

  iii.  Housing solutions need to be supported with mentoring.

  iv.  This was a matter for the wider community and Cambridge needs to come together to find solutions.

  v.  People want to help and are ready to engage.

  vi.  Urged the Committee to reconsider the charter proposal.


Matter for Decision

  i.  In early 2018, Councillor Bick and County Councillor Harrison, carried out an investigation into rough sleeping, and its impact on Cambridge. They produced a report with recommendations for the City Council, County Council, Police and other partners.

  ii.  Cllr Bick had requested that the Housing Scrutiny Committee consider his report.

  iii.  The covering report provided an officer response to the recommendations.


Decision of Executive Councillor for Housing

  i.  Noted the report, and endorse the work already being carried out by the Homelessness team and our partners in delivering services to rough sleepers;

  ii.  Request that officers actively engage in the County Council review of supported accommodation, to seek to ensure an outcome that supports vulnerable people and prevents rough sleeping.


Reason for the Decision

As set out in the Officer’s report.


Any Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

Not applicable.


Scrutiny Considerations


Councillor Bick and County Councillor Harrison introduced their report and responded to question from the Committee as follows:

  i.  No direct feedback had been sought from other Market Ward Councillors. It was not known whether they were supportive of the approach suggested.

  ii.  Stated that views on the installation of needle disposal bins in the public realm were mixed. Some felt they attracted users to already problematic areas.

  iii.  A Charter would generate greater publicity for the framework and the mission statement.

  iv.  The Charter would be a flexible tool to galvanise support.

  v.  A Housing first approach was desirable.

  vi.  Accommodation needs to be available at benefit levels.

 vii.  Comments from the County Council had been included in the report.

viii.  The small reduction in street sleeping was welcomed but this needed to be maintained.


The Committee received a report in response to the proposals from the Head of Housing and the Strategic Director (SH).


The Strategic Director (SH) stated that a Charter would be expensive and would divert resources from direct provision to public engagement. Cambridge was attractive to people from a wider geographical area and there were a high proportion of generous young people who would give to street beggars.

The Committee expressed concerns that Universal Credit would increase homelessness.

The Executive Councillor for Housing, Councillor Price, welcomed the report for highlighting an important issue. A lot of work was already being done but additional suggestions were always welcomed. 


Councillor Cantrill proposed the following additional recommendation to the Officer’s report:

Request that officers bring specific proposals to the October Housing Scrutiny Committee, for the preparation of a Cambridge Charter for Rough Sleeping and Street Life issues.


The amendment was lost by 5 votes to 3.


The Committee unanimously resolved to endorse the recommendations.


The Executive Councillor approved the recommendation.