Emergency Beds and Extra Support Offered to Rough Sleepers This Winter

EXTRA help and support will be offered to people sleeping rough 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 homeless people.

But as in previous years the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) will operate over the coming months to ensure nobody has to bed down on the street in freezing conditions.

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 their immigration or local connection status. During this time, extra support and advice is available to prevent people from returning to sleeping rough.

From the beginning of January until the end of March, FAITH Christian Group also operates ‘A Bed for the Night’ winter shelter which offers 18 bed spaces for homeless people.

People seeking an emergency bed for the night should be assessed by St Mungo’s or the Council’s Homelessness Prevention team who can make referral arrangements.

The Council and its partners launched the new Street Support Reading information portal earlier this year. The portal provides details of support and accommodation services available to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. It can be found online at www.streetsupport.net/reading and will also show when SWEP has been activated.

A printable paper guide has been created to provide urgent advice for people on the street including information on where to find a bed for the night, where to get food and obtain medical help.

The Council and its partners provide services 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.

All Year Round Support

Reading’s homelessness support services provide immediate and emergency responses to people who are homeless or sleeping rough including:

·        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.

·        Working towards independence beds for people who need support before moving into independent accommodation.

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

Extra funding from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has enabled the Council to provide extra street outreach workers, more bed spaces, an extension of FAITH Christian Group’s winter shelter for the month of March, support within emergency accommodation and additional officers to support with moving people into independent accommodation.

Cllr John Ennis, Lead Councillor for Housing, said:

“The Council and its partners work together all year round to provide comprehensive help and support to people sleeping rough.

“During the cold winter months it is even more urgent that rough sleepers and homeless people have somewhere warm and safe to bed down at short notice. The Severe Weather Emergency Protocol will ensure no-one will have to endure freezing nights on the streets in Reading 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

For media enquiries about this release call 0118 937 4289