Number of rough sleepers in Cambridge doubled last year

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A recent investigation conducted by the Cambridge News has uncovered the worrying extent of homelessness in Cambridge.

Seeing homeless people in shop doorways and by the side of the pavement is an everyday occurrence, and this is also born out in complaints to the police.

Staff at Starbucks in Christ’s Passage had to call the police to move rough sleepers on, as they were impeding access, so the café could not open for business.

This was similarly the case at the front of Premier Travel in Sidney Street, where another homeless person had made their bed for the night.

The problem is particularly evident by Parkside swimming pools, where rough sleepers have constructed a makeshift camp in order to stay warm; warm air is released from the building’s ventilation system.

These incidents are representative of a problem which is growing in severity in Cambridge. The number of people sleeping rough on its streets doubled last year.

Data from the Department of Communities and Local Government reveals that 40 people were homeless on Cambridge’s streets in autumn 2016, which represents an increase of 18 from the year before. In fact it is the highest number since 2010.

The seriousness of this level of homelessness is evident in the fact that there are 0.8 rough sleepers per 1,000 households. This is one of the highest rates of homelessness in England.

To combat homelessness the city council was granted £390,000 in December 2016 for the subsequent two financial years, to develop a team with health services and charities, which will help long-term rough sleepers.

However, the issue is complicated by the fact that there are people who seem to be rough sleepers, but who are in fact just begging.

A life-long Cambridge resident, who wants to be named as Stella Smith, is 35 and has been sleeping on the city’s streets for about a year. She commented to the Cambridge News.

“The problem is that a lot of the people you see that look like they are sleeping rough in shop doorways have a place in a hostel or even their own place but are just there to beg. There’s a lot of money to be made. I’m prepared to name and shame them. It’s ridiculous.

“I have been in the night shelter but the churches only take men and I was in an abusive relationship so the last thing I want to do is be with a load of men who have also done that sort of thing. So I have to sleep on the streets until I can get enough money to get a bed and breakfast for the night.”

She also made some suggestions as to how to alleviate the current problem.

“There are so many empty houses in the city so what is going on? The council needs to open them up to people like me who have lived here all their lives. A lot of the housing gets bought up by foreign buyers and left empty. That is a disgrace.”

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