Jimmy’s Emergency Accommodation Centre Full and Turning Away Nine People Per Night


Friday, May 30th, 2014. 2:17am


Riverside Bridge, Cambridge. RCCTV on Lamppost

Riverside, Cambridge.

Cambridge’s homelessness emergency accommodation centre, Jimmy’s, is full tonight and has been turning away an average of nine people a night over the last week.

Being approached by people begging for cash is a reasonably common experience for me in Cambridge.

Typically the context is someone in one of the city’s shopping streets approaching anyone and everyone asking for something like £1 for a bus fare; or money they say is for something to eat. Often (though I’ve seen exceptions) any offer of food, drink, or help is ignored and they just move on to the next person if cash is not immediately forthcoming. People can often be seen to continue begging after they have been given cash.

In other cities the situation is worse and this has resulted in me having a high degree of cynicism when someone approaches me asking for cash and I’m primed to say no, although I’ll be open to listening and trying to be helpful.

Earlier today I was approached by someone on Riverside in Cambridge. They were begging for money. I can’t remember exactly what I asked but I inquired about their circumstances. My view is I’m taxed very heavily; and one of the things I want, and thought I was getting, in return for my taxes, is excellent services to help those who are homeless and particularly those sleeping on the streets, in Cambridge. I expected to be able to point this person to some of the sources of help available within the city.

I was surprised to be told that by the person I was speaking to that they had approached Cambridge City Council, the Cambridge Citizens Advice Bureau, and emergency accommodation provider Jimmy’s but none of them had been able to provide any help and they were left facing another night sleeping under one of the bridges over the river Cam.

I was incredulous at this story; assuming that there would be help available. Details were offered, such as Jimmy’s being full and only able to offer a place on a waiting list, which made me think what I was being told was genuine. It’s not right to relay details of a private conversation but I think a key point is this is someone without a connection to Cambridge who felt they had to leave where they were and decided to come to the Cambridge seeking, as they put it, a fresh start.

Our conversation was brought to end by the person I was speaking to after I reiterated I wasn’t going to give any money, and following a mild insult along the lines of: “as long as you’re ok, and you’ve got a house”; the person I was talking to was called to by name by a group of people near-by.

At the time I thought knowing a group of people in the city was inconsistent with what I’d been told about just coming to Cambridge; but on reflection I realise that when he visited Jimmy’s and other places in the city seeking help he could well have met and got to know others in a similar situation in quite a short time.

I’ve sat through very many council meetings, and meetings of other bodies such as the Community Safety Partnership where homelessness in Cambridge has been discussed. Invariably the line given by councillors and officers has been that anyone sleeping on the streets of Cambridge is doing so voluntarily because they don’t want to accept offers of assistance. Cambridge City Council spends large sums of public money on emergency bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless people. I would expect people in the position the person I met on Riverside to be someone who would be offered such accommodation (even if the bed offered was outside Cambridge).

This evening I tweeted Jimmy’s to ask if they were full tonight, and was quite surprised to hear they were, and they were turning people away:

Cambridge city council provides some, but far from all, of the funding to Jimmy’s (which is also part-funded publicly via residents’ housing benefit); and Cambridge Citizens Advice bureau also receives funding from the council.

Our elected representatives ought be ensuring that we get the service we want from the homlessness services public money is being spent on in Cambridge. In particular I think our councillors need to use their influence, and spending power, to ensure organisations are getting their priorities right.

Councillors also have direct responsibility for ensuring the council itsself is advising people correctly and acting properly and humanely when people approach the council seeking emergency accommodation.

Councillors need to be checking if the approved “no second night out” policy/aspiration is in-fact functioning, and being met, in practice; and ensuring that the city’s policies particularly on helping those who have no local connection, and so the council has no legal duty to provide accommodation to, are being operated humanely.

£4,000 of taxpayers money was recently spent in Cambridge on posters urging people not to give money to beggars. That would have bought a lot of emergency bed and breakfast nights. I think this is an example of our councillors getting their priorities wrong.

As usual I think we need to elect better councillors to make sure public money is spent in such as way that ensures we get the services we want. I will point the two local ward councillors who are on Twitter to this article.

I have in the past either myself, or advised others to, let Cambridge City Council officers know where people are sleeping rough; with a view to the council’s specialist officers being able to find them, and offer assistance. In this case though such “outreach” is apparently not required with the person in question, claiming to me, they actively sought help from the council.

In addition to the bodies mentioned above the person I spoke to said he’d also been to the police; in relation to some of his belongings, which he had left, having gone missing. He said they were rude, dismissive, unhelpful, and not prepared to consider what had happened a crime they ought record. This is as far as I can see exactly the same way the police treat everyone else in Cambridge; but it is another example of an organisation which I would expect to be able to at least assist someone to find help, failing to do so. Not providing help to people who are homeless and destitute surely leads to a risk of those people committing crimes (initially begging, and potentially going on to worse, if only in the pursuit of survival).

See Also

10 comments/updates on “Jimmy’s Emergency Accommodation Centre Full and Turning Away Nine People Per Night

  1. Paul Lythgoe

    Richard – thank you for an article addressing a really tragic and serious issue. Cannot be acceptable for a wealthy city like Cambridge not to be able to provide sufficient accomodation for all homeless and rough sleepers in the city. The question for Jimmy’s is has this been an increasing trend following the austerity measures put in place by the coalition. Crisis study on homelessness http://www.crisis.org.uk/data/files/publications/TheHomelessnessMonitor_141011.pdf looks at both the impact of the last Labour Governments policy and the Coalition Governments policies on homelessness. Cuts in welfare, increasing use of sanctions, low wage and zero hour contracts for those employed have an impact on pushing more onto the streets. The heavy cuts in local authority incomes can only reduce the availability of local services to deal with homelessness, and an increasing reliance on homeless charities to provide the only safety nets.

    I am sure others will also contrast your compassion and concern over rough sleeping with your admittedly carefully defined support for UKIP. UKIP and the wider media won’t care for the subtelty of your reasons for your support. You are now just a number to justify their views. And on homelessness what is the UKIP view – well for homeless migrants it is to send them back to country of origin – I can’t find any other policy.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      My understanding is UKIP had no current national domestic policies in the run up to the recent MEP elections.

      We are already seeing results from the large UKIP vote in the MEP elections: Brussels too big and too bossy, Cameron tells EU leaders; I feel that’s evidence that my vote, and the votes of those who voted as I did, are achieving something.

      As I have said before I am not a member of UKIP; and while I voted for them in one election I do not consider myself to be a supporter. In the recent MEP elections spoiling my paper was an option I seriously considered. There was no-one I positively wanted to vote for. I’ve actually never had the experience of finding someone I’ve positively wanted to vote for on a ballot paper. Spoiling my paper may have been a legitimate option as I don’t want MEPs or an EU Parliament, so I don’t really want to express support for any of the candidates on offer. I took the view this time that I did have a preference between the options on the ballot paper; and I would like to use the opportunity to express my desire for strong national governments and against power increasingly being transferred to the less democratic, less accountable, more remote, European Union, and that is what I based my vote on.

      Where, in previous elections, I’ve really not had a preference between the candidates, and thought them all as bad as each other I have spoilt my paper. I have also spoilt my paper in student union elections, and referenda, which I have felt have not been run appropriately (eg. run under an regime of an institution banning campaigning; or with no, “no” campaign in a referendum being permitted). Where we have a legitimate election; and I’ve got a preference between the candidates I think it’s right to vote.

      I don’t support the principle of Police and Crime Commissioners but I voted in the election; and I would have even been prepared to stand if nominated, on a platform of mitigating the problems with the arrangements by, for example, delegating significant powers to local councillors who hold a broader democratic mandate, provide a stronger safeguard, and would result in more eyes, and more views, being fed into deliberations.

      If I was faced with a vote between having my garden over-run by a weed which caused me to have an allergic reaction verses one which didn’t I’d take the opportunity to express a preference between the options available even if ideally I’d rather my garden wasn’t over-run by any weeds at all.

      As for homelessness; while the person I spoke to, and who prompted the above article, was from the South East of England and came across as probably British; some sleeping rough are from Eastern Europe. One aim of a UK immigration policy should in my view be to do what we can to ensure that individuals coming to the UK are not likely to be drain on our public resources, and do not find themselves in an undesirable and unenviable positions, such as being hungry and sleeping rough.

      I would like to see the UK taking a more global view of immigration and freedom of movement.

      I was surprised when I learned relatively recently that what is often described as free movement for people within the EU actually comes with caveats; and EU citizens, who are not working, or genuinely seeking work, can be deported from the UK. I think we should be using these kinds of deportation procedures, which have been deployed locally in Wisbech, more often; I’ve written about them at:
      http://www.rtaylor.co.uk/policing-wisbech-june-2012.html#comment-84855

      I note Cambridge City Council’s policy on those who come to the city from elsewhere in the UK; as many of those sleeping rough, or seeking help with homelessness in the city do, is also to seek to help them return somewhere where they have a local connection. While I am keen to see everyone who is in the city treated humanely, and provided food and shelter if they need it, if they find themselves in an extremely desperate situation; we cannot as a city be too generous and doing so would be counterproductive as we would make the city even more attractive to those who are homeless – the city is already as it is a place people in trouble, without anywhere to live, find attractive. I don’t have any objection to finding those with no connection to Cambridge support and accommodation in other cities; I think it would be reasonable to seek to recover costs from people’s “home” authority areas too. Taking a similar view on a wider, European, level, would I think also be the right approach.

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    The heavy cuts in local authority incomes can only reduce the availability of local services to deal with homelessness, and an increasing reliance on homeless charities to provide the only safety nets.

    Cuts in local government have to-date in Cambridge (where I’ve been watching closely) and as far as I can see elsewhere largely resulted in the revelation that huge sums of money were being spent unnecessarily and it has been possible to provide the same services more efficiently. I can see that is not likely to continue as further planned cuts come into effect, but that’s certainly been the initial experience.

    Councillors get the opportunity to prioritise what’s important. It’s all too easy for the public sector to grow and grow and councils to do more and more, and to employ officers to carry out all manner of campaigns, schemes and projects.

    Having made so called efficiency savings; I would like to see councils moving to reconsidering their very reason for existence. Cllrs need what it is that their councils do that they really should be doing. As I’ve made clear in the article I think providing support for those sleeping rough on the city’s streets is certainly in the category of something the council should be doing. We don’t need staff hanging round playgrounds seeking to help children play; we don’t need cadres of officers working on homelessness if what they’re doing isn’t actually helping someone sleeping under the city’s bridges, we don’t need city council officers playing at policing, we don’t need city council officers trying to duplicate the work of the county council for example on highways matters, we need to elect councillors who will focus resources on what will make a difference. Resources are not just financial they include the time and effort of councillors, their officers and the public.

    Even in a time of plenty I would like to see a lightweight and efficient state as I think that’s the best way of securing the highest quality services and infrastructure that I want, and I think we need, the state to provide. I want to live in a UK with a state providing the best National Health Service it’s humanly possible to run; a state supporting those unable to support themselves; an a state emptying the bins, maintaining the roads and public spaces, investing in modern and effective transport systems, ensuring the country is safe and secure, offering the highest quality of education to all.

    I don’t think we can achieve that through simply borrowing to throw more money at the public sector; and to do so would counterproductive as it risks the prosperity of the nation and our long term ability to buy both the state services, and what we want as individuals. Top quality healthcare, and the latest technologies, require the UK as a whole earning its way in the world, providing something useful to the others, so we can afford to buy what we want and need from others who are producing it. Economic success of the country is essential for the state to be able to provide high quality services and a large state, and high taxes, are dampeners on the economy.

  3. Darren Cahil

    “My understanding is UKIP had no current national domestic policies in the run up to the recent MEP elections.

    We are already seeing results from the large UKIP vote in the MEP elections: Brussels too big and too bossy, Cameron tells EU leaders; I feel that’s evidence that my vote, and the votes of those who voted as I did, are achieving something.

    As I have said before I am not a member of UKIP; and while I voted for them in one election I do not consider myself to be a supporter. In the recent MEP elections spoiling my paper was an option I seriously considered. There was no-one I positively wanted to vote for. I’ve actually never had the experience of finding someone I’ve positively wanted to vote for on a ballot paper. Spoiling my paper may have been a legitimate option as I don’t want MEPs or an EU Parliament, so I don’t really want to express support for any of the candidates on offer. I took the view this time that I did have a preference between the options on the ballot paper; and I would like to use the opportunity to express my desire for strong national governments and against power increasingly being transferred to the less democratic, less accountable, more remote, European Union, and that is what I based my vote on.” R Taylor

    Firstly, Ukip did have a manifesto, but a very limited one. By the way, the results of this election has seen Cameron respond with more immigration control from the EU. There are plans to stop European immigrants from poorer countries coming to work here. [1] Congratulations Richard. Fellow reactionary voters of the populist national-chauvinist Ukip , and no doubt fairly well-off or wealthy supporters in the villages and small towns must be proud, but I doubt they don’t support getting immigrants involved in trade unions to improve wage and working conditions and certainly not farmer types who would be quite happy to employ Eastern Europeans on poor wages and working conditions, but then complain if they joined a union demanding better pay. Are you happy about the situation that has led to immigrants being divided into ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’? Because the solution to that is well funded public services that can cope with immigration levels and immigrants getting involved into trade unions as has happened in the past with the ‘No one is illegal’ campaign. [2]

    Anyway, there are other problems with your post, it is an oversimplification to state that we’re run by Brussels, as I understand it, the EU is a Federal system, it is other nations-states that also get involved in running the EU, not Brussels exactly. The odd thing is you say you don’t want an EU parliament, which by the way is far more democratic than our First Past the Post parliament and our archaic House of Lords. No, its the EU parliament you mention, not the undemocratic parts, like the EU Commission or Council of ministers. That is why I do not so much take issue with the EP, it is the Commission and the Council of Ministers I’d like to see abolished.
    And of course, I can understand voting for a preference (not a reference to preference voting), but is that not just a form of ‘lesser evilism’? Because I also think that is problematic and personally I’d like to vote on the basis of sincerity rather than lesser evil preference, conditionally if necessary.

    Lastly, you mention the desire for a strong national government, but Ukip likes to portray itself as a free trade party, which ironically undermines national governments, but this hasn’t been thought through by the duplicitous Ukip or its naive supporters. Their approach to trade is: ‘• On leaving the EU, the UK will keep
    the trade agreements we entered as an
    EU member prior to the Lisbon Treaty.
    Outside the EU, we can negotiate our
    own trade deals, but be in a stronger
    position, as we will be negotiating in
    the British interest.’ [3]

    The problem with this is can you imagine how the US or other global powers would respond? Does Ukip honestly think the US would remain indifferent? Come on, pull the other one, what parallel universe are these people living in? Cloud cuckoo land I think. The genie is out of the bottle, there is no going back to the nostalgic days of Empire. And why do think the US wants Britain (the seventh biggest economy)[4], in the EU? To have influence and tilt the EU into the Anglo-American economic model. The US, whilst on a relative gradual decline, is still overwhelmingly a hegemonic power, somebody needs to tell Ukip and its supporters (floating or otherwise) it would seem.

    On local councils, I’d just say that the reason we have more centralisation is because of Thatcher’s policies. It was the Thatcher government that oversaw centralisation of government and a weakening of local Council’s powers. :-(

    Notes:

    1. Telegraph ‘David Cameron draws up immigration laws to foil Ukip
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/10854566/David-Cameron-draws-up-immigration-laws-to-foil-Ukip.html
    2. ‘A voice from the Aliens: About the Anti-Alien Resolution of the Cardiff Trade Union Congress (1895)
    http://www.noii.org.uk/files/A_Voice_From_The_Aliens_%28reprint_of_1895_pamphlet%29.pdf
    3. Ukip Euro-manifesto ‘Repairing the UK’ p.7
    4. Another error on the Ukip leaflet was the claim that ‘The UK is the 6th largest economy in the world’ Do keep up Ukipper’s. The Ukip leaflet also claims outside the EU ‘we can negotiate our own global trade agreements. The Commonwealth would be a good place to start.’ Where’s the democratic structures for the Commonwealth? Would that also not be remote from us? Ukip says nothing else about that, what a surprise?

  4. bob

    The figures tell us nothing. It could mean that people are attracted to Cambridge as it offers better facilities than other places. When I read of shits like William D’eath travelling to Cambridge to use the facilities such as Jimmys, I do wonder. I am not aware of the total number of rough sleepers increasing nationally other than at the rate of population growth but I am happy to be corrected.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      As I mentioned in the article; a key factor in any policy change is how it will affect the attractiveness as a destination for the homeless. The number of people living on the streets of Cambridge is something which I as a Cambridge resident care about; if those people come from Cambridge or not.

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    On the 29th of August 2014 Cambridge City Council published the fact the Local Government Ombudsman had made a finding of maladministration against Cambridge City Council in respect of “the Council’s homelessness function”

    http://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/mgIssueHistoryHome.aspx?IId=13096&PlanId=142

    The webpage states:

    The Council’s Executive needs to examine the findings and ensure that steps are taken to address the issues identified.

    Cambridge City Council’s executive is not currently due to meet until the 22nd of January 2015.

    I can find no details of the complaint, or finding, on either the council, or Local Government Ombudsman websites.

  6. Richard Taylor Article author

    On the 14th of April 2016 Cambridge City Council debated rough sleeping:

    I asked for the fact a quarter of reports of rough sleeping were going unanswered to be raised. No councillor did raise the matter.

    I’ve submitted the following to the Community Safety Partnership:

    I would like to use the public questions agenda item at the 26 April meeting of the Cambridge Community Safety Partnership to ask the following questions related to agenda items:
    [...]

    2. Re: Agenda Item 9.2: Priority area progress reports: Q4 2015/16 .2 – Reducing anti-social behaviour

    The anti-social behaviour priority area progress report states, in relation to “problematic rough sleeping” : “complainants are being updated on a regular basis” however the independent third party Cambridge City Council directs people to make reports through, StreetLink, reports about a quarter of reports get no response from the council.

    http://content.streetlink.org.uk/referralmap.html

    What is the reason for this disparity and the poor response rate as recorded by StreetLink?

    I note while I’ve quoted the terminology used in the partnership’s papers when asking my question I certainly don’t consider when I’m letting the council know about rough sleepers that I’m making a complaint or reporting a problem. I’m letting my local council know about people who need our society’s help, and where I want to see public resources deployed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.
Please consider saying where you are from eg. "Cambridge".
Required fields are marked *

*

Powered by WP Hashcash