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Cambridge City Council

Rough sleeping and begging

Rough sleeping is the most visible form of homelessness.

People who live on the streets are more likely to be the victims of violence and substance abuse. It can also be damaging to physical and mental health.

This can make it difficult to engage with the support services that can help them leave the streets and rebuild their lives.

Funding is available for projects that prevent or relieve homelessness and rough sleeping in Cambridge. Find out about Homelessness Prevention Grants.

How we tackle rough sleeping

Our aim is to end rough sleeping altogether – we work with partners to tackle, prevent and reduce it.

Wherever possible, we try to prevent people from becoming homeless. When we are unable to prevent homelessness, we do our best to avoid the need for the person to sleep rough. We try to help rough sleepers leave the streets as quickly as possible.

  • We do not have the legal power to demand that a rough sleeper moves on. Only the police can demand that a rough sleeper leaves an area where there is a breach of the peace.
  • We will only intervene where there is antisocial behaviour associated with rough sleeping. We also deal with illegal encampments on council-owned green spaces.
  • We work closely with the charity Change Grow Live. They visit rough sleepers and attempt to engage with them to offer support and advice.
  • We remove items that appear to have been abandoned on the street or an open space. We have strict procedures for dealing with items that we remove.
  • Working with the Cambridgeshire Community Foundation, we provide Street Aid grants to help rough sleepers get off and stay off the streets.

Read more about how we help tackle homelessness.

Report rough sleeping

You can use StreetLink to alert local agencies about someone who is sleeping rough who in turn will try to help the person access support and accommodation.

StreetLink is a government-funded service that requires registration with your email address and a password.

Alternatively, if you do not wish to register, you can report rough sleeping to us and we will alert the relevant agencies on your behalf.

You can also report antisocial behaviour if you are affected by it in relation to rough sleeping.


Begging is often seen as linked to rough sleeping, but this is not always the case.

You might see people on the street with a sign asking for money to help them pay for accommodation. This is still classed as begging, even if there is no verbal request for money.

Nobody needs to beg to get into hostel accommodation. Hostels in Cambridge are free to enter, and eligible people can claim housing benefit to help pay for it.

Report begging to the police – report crime online, or phone 101.

If you give money to someone begging on the street, you might be doing more harm than good.

If you want to help people on the streets, you can donate to Street Aid instead of giving cash. All money donated to the scheme goes to grants for people who are, or have been, on the streets to help them leave the streets behind.

For questions about a service we provide, please use our contact us form