Extra Beds and Support Offered to Rough Sleepers this Winter

ROUGH sleepers will once again be offered extra help and support by the Council and its partners during the winter months in Reading.

Reading Borough Council works throughout the year with its voluntary and community sector partners to support people who are sleeping rough.

But as in previous years extra emergency beds and support will be made available this winter to ensure nobody has to bed down on the street in freezing conditions.

Reading’s homeless support services underwent major changes in September but the Severe Weather Emergency Provision (SWEP) will continue to operate as it has done for many years.

Whenever the Met Office forecasts three successive nights or more with minimum temperatures of zero degrees or below, SWEP is activated.

Local service providers St Mungo’s, Launchpad Reading and the Salvation Army work in partnership to ensure anyone at risk of sleeping rough during severe weather is offered emergency accommodation regardless of any local connection.

FAITH Christian Group also operates Bed for the Night which offers 18 bed spaces for homeless people.

During this time, extra support and advice is also available to prevent people from returning to sleeping rough. The Council and its partners provide this service throughout the year but people can be more willing to accept help during the winter months. Some people with complex and multiple needs are difficult to consistently engage with support services.

The new model for homelessness support services, launched this September, already provides immediate and emergency responses to people who are homeless or sleeping rough all year round. This features:

·        A central hub in Reading town centre which brings together services for those who are homeless or rough sleeping, including emergency assessment beds, 24/7 supported hostel accommodation and support services.

·        An outreach team focused on supporting rough sleepers into accommodation and reconnecting those without a local connection to their area of origin.

·        A ‘No second night out’ model to ensure anyone sleeping rough for the first time is prevented from sleeping out for a second night.

·        Some permanent accommodation for people straight from the street – an unconditional offer of independent housing alongside intensive support for street homeless people with multiple and complex needs.

Also this year Reading Borough Council has been awarded £316,000 from a £30m pot of cash the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has set aside for 2018/19 to significantly reduce rough sleeping across the country. Funds of about £335,000 have also been provisionally awarded for 2019/20.

This will provide extra street outreach workers, more bed spaces and support within emergency accommodation and additional officers to support with moving people into independent accommodation. The funds will also allow FAITH’s Bed for the Night Scheme to be extended by one month, from January to March.

Taken together this means that, once fully implemented, there will be a significant increase in the accommodation and support available for rough sleepers to lower the number of people sleeping on the streets of Reading.

Cllr John Ennis, Lead Councillor for Housing, said:

“The Council and its partners offer comprehensive support to rough sleepers and homeless people throughout the year but even more urgent action is required when night-time temperatures plummet.

“As in previous years, we will be working with our community and voluntary sector partners to make sure nobody has to sleep on the streets overnight in freezing conditions this winter.”

Anyone who is worried about someone sleeping rough can alert the Council and the Street Outreach Service by getting in touch via www.streetlink.org.uk, by downloading the Streetlink mobile app or by calling 0300 500 0914.

David Millward

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