PROVISION of extra help for rough sleepers is being activated tonight (Wednesday 29th November) for the first time this winter.
Reading Borough Council works throughout the year with its voluntary and community sector partners to help people who are sleeping rough.
But as in previous years extra emergency beds will be made available throughout the winter to ensure homeless people do not have to bed down outside in freezing conditions.
Severe Weather Emergency Provision (SWEP) has operated in Reading for many years and is activated whenever the Met Office forecasts three nights or more with a minimum temperature of 0°C or below.
SWEP will be activated tonight due to the ‘actual’ and ‘feels like’ temperatures forecast over the next few days and it will be deactivated when temperatures rise to above freezing.
The Council has a contract with St Mungo’s to provide a street outreach team to support rough sleepers into treatment and accommodation all year round. It also commissions a floating support service, operated by homeless charity Launchpad Reading, which supports vulnerable people who need help to retain their tenancy or with resettlement.
The Council also funds more than 200 supported accommodation beds in partnership with homeless pathway providers, the Salvation Army, Riverside and Bournemouth Churches Housing Association.
In winter, local services provided by St Mungo’s, Launchpad Reading, social housing provider Riverside and the Salvation Army, work in partnership to ensure that anyone at risk of sleeping rough during severe weather is offered emergency accommodation.
24/7 staffed supported accommodation funded by the council prepare to open up their communal areas to accommodate as many extra people as possible. St Mungo’s carry out assessments and offer advice to anyone using emergency beds.
During this time, extra support and advice is also available to prevent people from returning to sleeping rough. Whilst the council makes these services available all year round, people can be more likely to accept help during the winter months. Some people with complex and multiple needs are difficult to consistently engage with support services.
FAITH Christian Group also operates Bed for the Night which offers 18 bed spaces for homeless people with local connections in January and February.
Cllr John Ennis, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Housing, said:
“The Council works with its partners to get rough sleepers into accommodation throughout the year but this task becomes even more important as temperatures fall at night.
“As in previous years, we are working together to ensure nobody is left to sleep on the street in freezing conditions overnight.”
Ellie Alway-Thomas, Reading Outreach Manager at St Mungo’s, said:
“Our aim is to help as many people to access safe and secure accommodation as possible. Rough sleeping is harmful and dangerous at any time, however this is increased when temperature drops.
“Health problems connected to continued exposure to the freezing cold, including hypothermia and pneumonia, exacerbate people’s already poor physical and mental health. It’s vital that we get help to people quickly so we can save lives but also in the longer term, find people permanent accommodation and the space to recover.
“If you are concerned about someone sleeping rough, I would urge people to get in touch via the StreetLink website streetlink.org.uk to help connect someone with their local service as soon as possible.”
Anyone who is worried about someone sleeping rough can get in touch via www.streetlink.org.uk