Opinion: ‘Helping rough sleepers off the street’

Wayne Fitzgerald, city council leader and Conservative group leader on Peterborough City Council writes...

Sunday, 17th October 2021, 1:45 pm

World leaders will gather in Glasgow later this month for the vitally important 2021 United Nations Climate Change conference, also known as COP26.

The event will highlight how, if we don’t act immediately, by the end of the century we will warm the planet by at least 3C, causing catastrophic flooding, pollution, bush fires, extreme weather and destruction of species.

You don’t need me to tell you just how serious this is. We should all do our bit to help the environment, and little changes can make a big difference.

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In the run up to COP26, we’re keen to hear from people and organisations doing great things in their communities, asking them to nominate ‘Climate Leaders’ so we can promote their efforts and inspire others. It might be a business, a school, or a group of residents doing something remarkable.

We also want people to make green pledges – it might be using less heating, turning the thermostat down by a couple of degrees or using public transport more – and then share these on social media.

I’m playing my part having swapped my old diesel car for a self-charging Kia Nero petrol hybrid. Nigel Simons, our cabinet member with responsibility for the environment, has done the same.

I have also recorded a video blog outlining how you can get involved, so please have a watch on our YouTube channel. You can also find out more on the council’s website or by following us on social media.

We are proud of our city’s environmental record and the progress we are making towards our own net zero carbon target by 2030. But there is always more we can do. So please help us to make a difference, spearheading changes which will benefit our communities for years to come.

Don’t forget that our next Ask the Leader online session, which gives residents a chance to put any questions to myself, will be dedicated to climate change. It takes place on Tuesday, October 26, and you can get involved by submitting questions to [email protected]

I have had several people contact me recently with concerns about rough sleepers and beggars in the city centre and associated anti-social behaviour. It’s a feature of most towns and cities, but when it makes people feel unsafe, we simply must resolve it.

Our teams are working with those people who need support to leave the streets behind, but we cannot force them to engage with us. In addition, some of the problems are issues for the police, rather than the council.

The fact remains that there is a bed for everyone who needs it, every night – there is no need for anyone to sleep rough in our city. There is also lots of support available for people to deal with addictions and other problems which may have led to them becoming homeless in the first place.

Whilst I have much sympathy for most people sleeping rough and begging, there are one or two who are 
making other people’s lives a misery. We cannot tolerate that behaviour and will be working with the police to ensure it does not stop people’s enjoyment of our city centre.

You may have seen in the media that we’re recommending schools take extra precautionary measures to stop the rise in Covid among young people.

Rates in Peterborough are concerning. At the end of last week there were 368 cases across 57 educational settings – up from 238 the week before.

As a result, we’re recommending schools reintroduce some measures to help keep children and staff safe, and to enable normal education to continue as much as possible.

This advice covers the next two weeks until half term and includes secondary schools reintroducing face coverings in communal spaces, but not in classrooms, social distancing for staff within school buildings and the continued encouragement for secondary school pupils to take part in twice weekly LFD testing and to get vaccinated.

I know this won’t be popular with everyone, but it really is essential to stop the spread of the virus amongst young people. The situation is being reviewed daily, and these additional measures will be withdrawn if things improve.

If you have any furniture that you no longer need, please consider donating it to help with our efforts to resettle Afghan refugees in the city.

We’re currently working with partners to help resettle up to 100 refugees, and the first two families to arrive have now been permanently housed.

As part of our efforts to help more families find homes, anyone with good quality sofas, beds, wardrobes, TV stands and coffee tables can drop these off to the Carezone warehouse at Dodson House, Fengate, Peterborough, PE1 5XG. It’s open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10am to 1pm.

We are also looking for volunteers to help in the warehouse to sort and clean furniture for family use. 
Anyone interested can contact Carezone on 01733 575083.