PLANS are in place once again to provide extra help to rough sleepers during the winter months when overnight temperatures plummet.
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 this winter to ensure homeless people do not have to bed down outside in freezing conditions.
Members of the Council’s Single Homelessness Pathways team will be joining forces with a host of charities and community organisations to highlight the work done to support homeless people in a street exhibition in Broad Street to mark World Homeless Day tomorrow (10th October).
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 its single homeless pathway providers, the Salvation Army 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.
Hostels 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.
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.
FAITH Christian Group also operates Bed for the Night which offers 18 bed spaces for homeless people with local connections throughout 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 begin to fall at night.
“As in previous years, we are preparing to work 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.”
The Council’s commissioned homeless support services, including IRIS, Launchpad Reading, Riverside, St Mungo’s and the Salvation Army, are supporting the World Homeless Day event being organised by cross-sector agencies in Broad Street on Tuesday 10th October.
Members of the public are encouraged to visit the information stands which will be open to everyone between 10am – 3pm to find out more about the many services in Reading which are offered to people who are homeless and in need of support.
Anyone who is worried about someone sleeping rough can get in touch via www.streetlink.org.uk