THE number of homeless households staying in temporary bed and breakfast accommodation in Reading has fallen dramatically following intensive efforts by the Council and its partners to tackle the problem.
A focus on homelessness prevention and the provision of more temporary accommodation has helped reduce the number of households in B&B from well over 100 to single figures in 18 months.
Homelessness and lack of affordable housing is still a major issue in Reading and the Council is encouraging people at risk of becoming homeless to seek advice as early as possible.
Members of Reading Borough Council’s housing team will be in Broad Street with a group of charities, community organisations and council-commissioned services in Broad Street to mark World Homeless Day on Wednesday 10th October.
The number of households in emergency B&B accommodation in Reading stood at 136 on 31st March 2017 but had fallen to 29 by 1st April 2018. Today there are just seven households in B&B accommodation. There were 104 families in B&B in March 2017 but this week there are just four.
The Council has officers in the Homeless Prevention Service who are specially trained to offer practical advice and support to people who are at risk of losing their home.
Individuals who attend drop-in sessions at the Civic Offices are initially seen by Housing Advice Support Officers who may be able to offer immediate help or refer their case onto another offer for a full assessment.
Homeless Prevention Officers will work with individuals who are at risk of losing their home to try to prevent this and with those who are already homeless, and will devise a personalised housing plan.
Officers will work with rough sleepers and vulnerable single people and couples who require supported housing before moving on into more independent accommodation.
Prevention is key to tackling homelessness but so is being able to support people to access affordable housing. The Council has driven a multi-strand approach to increasing the number of affordable homes available to those in need.
The Council recognises the importance of the private rented sector in Reading and has been working hard to build up good relationships with private landlords through initiatives such as the Rent Guarantee Scheme (RGS). This matches people who need homes with landlords who have properties to let and offers benefits including guaranteed rent paid directly to the landlord, up to six weeks deposit and rent paid during void periods.
The 28 self-contained modular homes each contain two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen-diner and a living room and the first families moved in at the beginning of the year.
Other Council housing projects include the construction of 57 new Council homes in Conwy Close, Tilehurst, which is currently under way and a further £20m has been agreed to build up to 100 new homes in various locations across the borough.
Cllr John Ennis, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Housing, said:
“The dramatic reduction in the number of Reading families forced to stay in Bed & Breakfast accommodation is a huge achievement.
“The Council and its partners have worked extremely hard to tackle this serious problem which affected many families and was a huge cost to the Council.
“I would encourage anyone who thinks they are at risk of being made homeless to contact the Homeless Prevention Service immediately. The sooner you contact the team the more likely they will be able to help.
“Homelessness, rough sleeping and lack of affordable housing continue to be major issues in Reading and the Council is committed to tackling them in a variety of innovative ways.”
Members of the public will have a chance to find out more about the challenges facing homeless people and those sleeping rough and the support services available to them in Reading during World Homeless Day on 10th October. FAITH Christian Group, St Mungo’s, Launchpad and the Salvation Army will be among the groups with information stalls in Broad Street between 9am-3pm.
Anyone worried they are at risk of being made homeless can call into the Civic Offices in Bridge Street between 9am-5pm Monday to Friday, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (0118) 937 2165.
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.