THE Council is working with its voluntary sector partners to ensure people who are homeless and sleeping rough can receive help and support over Christmas and throughout the winter.
Year-round provision is made available to those who are rough sleeping and homeless through the Council’s Homelessness Support Services and contracted partners St Mungo’s, The Salvation Army and Launchpad Reading.
But extra beds and places to keep warm are being made available through the winter and members of the public and businesses are also being encouraged to help.
The Council’s Housing team has successfully bid for extra funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLTG) to pay for additional homeless services this year, including £300,000 via the Rough Sleeper Initiative (RSI) and £30,000 from the Cold Weather Fund (CWF).
The Salvation Army will be hosting 10 additional emergency bed spaces at its town centre hub which will be used by St Mungo’s for those verified as sleeping rough. These will be available between 20th December and 2nd January and are funded by Reading’s CWF award.
Since 2015, FAITH Christian Group has funded and organised Reading’s Winter Shelter called Bed for the Night. The shelter is hosted by up to 11 different churches in Reading with support provided by volunteers. RSI funding is allowing the service to be extended by one month so it will operate between January and March 2020. CWF funding will also pay for wellbeing support for those using the shelter.
Charity New Beginnings, based at The Queen’s Arms alcohol-free pub in Great Knollys Street, has also been awarded CWF funding to host additional Winter Shelter provision during the whole of December and over Christmas, until FAITH’s provision starts in January. The Council has used RSI cash to fund a Housing Justice accreditation for the charity so they can provide an effective and safe place of support for those in need and their volunteers and staff.
Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) is activated in Reading whenever the Met Office forecasts three successive nights or more with minimum temperatures of zero degrees. Officers also use their discretion regarding other conditions such as wind chill, snow blasts and ‘feels like’ temperatures.
St Mungo’s, the Salvation Army and Launchpad Reading work in partnership to ensure anyone at risk of sleeping rough during severe weather is offered emergency accommodation regardless of any local connection or recourse to public funds. SWEP has already been activated once this season.
This year, Reading has joined the Street Support Network to create Reading’s Homelessness Partnership (HoP) which is a partnership of charities and statutory organisations working together to end rough sleeping and homelessness.
A full online directory of services that offer food, support, accommodation and advice can be found at: https://streetsupport.net/reading/. This site also reports when SWEP has been activated.
This Christmas, the Street Support portal is publishing details of the volunteer help and donations local homelessness charities require. This can include requests for specific items, such as outdoor winter clothing, or for people’s time. Details of how the public and businesses can help local homeless charities can be found here: https://streetsupport.net/give-help/help/?postcode=RG1&type=All
Cllr John Ennis, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Housing, said:
“At this time of year when temperatures fall it is even more important that shelter and support is available to people who are sleeping rough.
“The Council and its partners offer extensive support to people who are homeless throughout the year but extra action is needed in the winter.
“We are fortunate in Reading to have so many voluntary organisations working alongside the Council to provide help to homeless people. Details of services available in Reading can now be found on the new Street Support Reading website and accompanying leaflets.”
The Council’s Homelessness Prevention Team will be available to call at the following times over the holiday period on (0118) 937 4666:
Tuesday 24th December, 9am–3pm; Friday 27th December, 9am-5pm; Monday 30th December, 9am-5pm & Tuesday 31st December, 9am-3pm.
Outside of these hours, the emergency out of hours number is 01344 786543.
Anyone concerned about someone sleeping rough can notify the Council via the Streetlink website at: https://www.streetlink.org.uk/, by downloading the Streetlink mobile app or calling 0300 500 0914. The information is passed onto the St Mungo’s outreach team to locate them and support them off the street.