Responding to reports that personal belongings of rough sleepers had been removed along with unattended cardboard and material in doorways Councillor Anna Smith, the Executive Councillor for Streets and Open Spaces, said: “ I want to take this opportunity to apologise on behalf of the Council for personal possessions taken when cardboard was recently removed by our team from city centre doorways. It is not the policy of the Council to dispose of personal possessions and we apologise if this has inadvertently happened. Our dedicated officers frequently report any issues of concern regarding the health or welfare of rough sleepers. I know that they will be very concerned at reports that personal possessions may have been inadvertently destroyed.
I have begun a cross-council investigation into the reported incidents and wider issues, We want to talk to those affected and homelessness agencies and learn from this so that we can avoid such distress in the future.
I also commit, on behalf of the Council, that where personal belongings have to be removed in future, we will be putting an accessible collection point in place for them to be reclaimed and we will ensure that our street outreach teams can pass this information onto the individuals they deal with. We are also investigating the potential for 'homeless lockers' which have been successful in the United States as a way for homeless people to keep their belongings dry and secure during the day.
I hope as many rough sleepers as possible will take advantage of the range of services provided to help get them off the street and into accommodation. I also encourage any member of the public to report instances of rough sleeping to the council or through the Streetlink website so that support can be put in place.
We continue to have a duty to ensure that the city centre streets and shop doorways are clean and accessible to all, and our cleansing teams have to respond to requests from business to clear up cardboard and items apparently abandoned in shop doorways. However we also have to be sensitive to the personal situations of anyone finding themselves on the streets. Incidents of rough sleeping in Cambridge, which are primarily concentrated in the city centre, have almost doubled in the past year and the number of rough sleepers has also risen to almost 200. The City Council is fully committing to addressing this issue, and already puts significant resource into tackling it. In 2016/17 we will add to this with a dedicated multi disciplinary taskforce funded through a two year grant to work with longterm rough sleepers.”
The Streetlink website to report instances of rough sleeping can be found at http://www.streetlink.org.uk/
The latest data on instances of rough sleeping in Cambridge shows that it has risen from 346 in 2014/2015, to 673 in 2015/2016 and 1243 in 2016/2017. The number of rough sleepers in the same period has risen from 135 in 2014/2015, to 152 in 2015/2016 and 192 in 2016/2017. The figures mirror a year on year national rise in rough sleeping over the last 6 years primarily in urban centres such as London, Cambridge, Peterborough and Oxford.
The City Council invests over £1.2 m in supporting rough sleepers off the street and in December were successful in their bid for a government grant of almost £400,000 over two years to tackle longterm rough sleepers with a multi-disciplinary street outreach taskforce.