MORE than half of a group of people who were previously sleeping rough and/or begging in Reading are now beginning or about to start treatment for drug or alcohol use, thanks to a new joint working partnership involving the council, the police and local support organisations.
The initiative began in January this year when services decided to work together more closely to support 27 people known to have drug and alcohol issues. As of July 2018, 15 people are now engaging or about to engage with support services.
Reading Borough Council worked with officers from Thames Valley Police and partners, including homeless charities and substance-abuse treatment services, to encourage people off the streets and into the treatment and help programmes.
The partnership project aims to ensure the individuals receive the treatment and support they need to allow them to make long-term changes to their lives, while reducing the impact of begging and rough sleeping within the community.
The Council’s commissioned drug and alcohol treatment service is IRIS Reading. St Mungo’s outreach team, which works with people sleeping rough, signpost to IRIS Reading if people are tackling drug and/or alcohol problems. Police officers in the town also regularly work to promote the IRIS Reading treatment programme and actively encourage individuals to access the service. People who are begging are also told about the services available and about the help available from Reading’s homeless support services.
A member of the neighbourhood police team also has regular meetings with the Council’s drug and alcohol services commissioner to discuss how people who are homeless and who have a drug and/or alcohol addiction can be further supported. PCSOs also have responsibility for individual locations within the town centre and look at long term solutions to issues for the local residents, businesses and individuals involved.
Cllr John Ennis, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Housing, said:
“Some of the people who sleep rough or who beg in Reading have drug and alcohol problems, which we can help them with if they are aware of the services available and how to access them. Sometimes substance use can be a real barrier to people being able to move into and sustain accommodation.
“We don’t want living on the streets or begging to become the norm for anyone. This partnership approach allows police officers to link people into IRIS and to formally track their progress. The project is already proving to be making a difference and could help a significant number of individuals to move off the streets and into long term accommodation.”
Chief Inspector Emma Burroughs, of the Reading police area for Thames Valley Police, said:
“Thames Valley Police are keen to work in partnership with agencies to provide the necessary support to help individuals receive the correct support and treatment. This intervention will help identify issues at an early stage, allowing a preventative approach to be adopted that will be beneficial to all concerned.”
Helen Denyer, St Mungo’s Regional Head, said:
“Rough sleeping is dangerous, dehumanising and potentially life threatening. Physical and mental health problems can be both a cause and a consequence of rough sleeping, and there are a number of ‘push and pull factors’ which mean that people can return to rough sleeping. Our aim is always for someone to have a place to call home and be able to receive the support they need to fulfil their hopes and ambitions.”