Extra Winter Support Offered to Rough Sleepers this Christmas

EXTRA help and support is being offered to rough sleepers in Reading to ensure nobody needs to spend a night on the streets this Christmas.

The Council works throughout the year with its voluntary and community sector partners to support people who are sleeping rough or at risk of homelessness.

But extra emergency beds and support are made available in the winter to ensure nobody has to bed down on the street in freezing conditions.

Severe Weather Emergency Provision (SWEP) is activated in Reading whenever the Met Office forecasts three successive nights or more with minimum temperatures of zero degrees or below. It was activated for the first time on Thursday 13th December and remained in place over the weekend.

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.

Services will also be in available to help rough sleepers, and those at risk of sleeping rough, into accommodation over the festive season.

During the winter, 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.

A new model for homelessness support services was launched in September and 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 was 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. Some of these funds will allow FAITH Christian Group’s Bed for the Night scheme to extend its operation 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, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Housing, said:

“People are naturally more concerned about people sleeping rough at this time of year but extra support is on offer from the Council and its partners.

“Comprehensive support is available to rough sleepers and homeless people throughout the year but even more urgent action is required when night-time temperatures drop.

“The Council will continue to work with its community and voluntary sector partners to ensure nobody has to bed down on the street in freezing conditions this winter.”

Should you find yourself sleeping rough, or have concerns that someone is sleeping rough, you can alert Reading’s Street Outreach Service via www.streetlink.org.uk, by downloading the Streetlink mobile app or calling 0300 500 0914. Anyone who is homeless or feels at risk of homelessness can contact the Council’s Homelessness Prevention Team on (0118) 937 2165.

David Millward

For media enquiries about this release call 0118 937 4289