Mayor of Huntingdon increasingly concerned by issue of homelessness in town

Councillor Steve McAdam, the mayor of Huntingdon. Picture: ARCHANT

Councillor Steve McAdam, the mayor of Huntingdon. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

The mayor of Huntingdon is growing increasingly concerned about the number of homeless people sleeping rough in the town centre.

Councillor Steve McAdam has already raised the issue with Cambridgeshire police and crime commissioner Jason Ablewhite and plans to take it up with Huntingdonshire District Council's housing officer.

Cllr McAdam said the issue would become more important with the coming of the cold weather.

"It is one of the things that has been on my mind," Cllr McAdam said. "I don't like to think of the effect on people sleeping rough on the street particularly as we are coming into winter."

He said he raised the issue with Mr Ablewhite during a wide-ranging special meeting with the commissioner.

Cllr McAdam said the commissioner had told him police took a multi-agency approach to the homeless issue, with liaison officers knowing who the rough sleepers were - but that they did not always accept help.

The commissioner said the Trailblazer project being rolled out in Peterborough helped tackle the problem through assisting with drug addiction, alcohol misuse and mental health issues, with temporary shelters also becoming available when the temperature dropped.

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Cllr McAdam told a briefing on the meeting for town councillors: "I am looking to having a meeting with the district council housing officer to discuss this further."

He said that since the meeting he had requested figures showing how many officers were designated for Huntingdon town centre and was awaiting a reply which he would share with the town council when he had it.

Cllr McAdam said Mr Ablewhite had told him that, unlike other forces, 10 per cent of local police were dedicated to community-based crime prevention work and 50 more officers were being recruited countywide for these duties.

Cllr McAdam told councillors: "I asked about my concerns on individual safety in the town centre in the evening. I was told that police cannot be everywhere and if you see or are involved in an incident you should call the police.

"Police priorities are things like domestic violence, drug dealing etc, and with limited police available, foot patrols on the High Street cannot be a high priority."

Cllr McAdam said he had also discussed issues including aggressive begging, drinking alcohol within the ring road area, cybercrime, littering, the future of magistrates' courts and decriminalisation of parking infringements. He said he had been given a tour of Cambridgeshire's police headquarters which he found was "extremely impressive".

A spokesman for Mr Ablewhite said: "Rough sleeping is something the commissioner is very concerned about. However, tackling it requires a partnership approach.

"The commissioner is supportive of joint approaches to supporting people from sleeping on the streets."

The spokesman said Mr Ablewhite felt the Trailblazer project was a "good example of a partnership approach to the complex needs of people on the streets, helping them through mental health issues and supporting people with drug and alcohol addiction problems."