Tackling Rough Sleeping in Reading

Article from the Winter 2019 edition of Your Reading residents’ newsletter 

ROUGH SLEEPING is a dangerous and isolating experience. People are more likely to be victims of crime, violence and sexual assault whilst sleeping rough, and the longer someone spends on the streets, the more likely they are to develop further mental and physical ill-health, substance dependency and have contact with the criminal justice system.

This is known as ‘multiple disadvantage’. The more multiple disadvantage someone experiences, the more help they will need to move on from homelessness and rebuild their lives.

The Council’s homelessness support services work to end rough sleeping in Reading by tackling both accommodation needs and multiple disadvantage. Through the Reading Street Support Network we work in partnership with other statutory agencies, local charities, faith groups and community organisations that can provide food, support and accommodation.

The Council’s housing needs service offers housing advice to prevent and relieve homelessness and can help people into long term accommodation through initiatives like our deposit guarantee scheme.

Supporting people away from a rough sleeping lifestyle is complex. It can take time, several attempts and many different support agencies to encourage someone to move from the streets into accommodation.

What is homelessness?

Rough sleeping may be the most visible form of homelessness, but you can be homeless without sleeping on the streets. Being homeless means not having a home even if you have a roof over your head.

You can be homeless if you are staying with friends or family, in a hostel, at a night shelter or in a B&B, squatting, at risk of violence or abuse in your home or living in poor conditions that affect your health.

The Council’s housing needs services are here to provide advice and support so that people don’t become homeless in the first place.

If you or someone you know is at risk of becoming homeless, contact us for advice. Call: (0118) 937 2165 (or 01344 786512 out of hours). Email: housing.advice@reading.gov.uk, or visit: https://www.reading.gov.uk/homeless

What happens when someone is discovered rough sleeping?

  1. A member of the public sees ‘David’ sleeping rough and uses the Streetlink app to report it, which notifies the Council’s partner St Mungo’s.
  2. The outreach service from St Mungo’s find David and offer him a hot drink and a bed for the night.
  3. David is referred to Willow House, Reading’s hub for single homeless people run by the Salvation Army. He gets an emergency bed, a hot breakfast and talks to them about his housing options.
  4. David moves into his own room at Willow House where he can get the help and support he needs, eg; treatment for physical or mental health problems, or drug or alcohol dependency.
  5. When he’s ready to move on, Launchpad Reading help David find supported accommodation or an independent room and give him the support he needs, eg; advice finding a job and paying bills.

What is SWEP?

The Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) is a national programme that ensures extra beds are available when the forecast temperature is below zero degrees for three nights in a row. Anyone at risk of sleeping rough can access those beds by going to www.streetlink.org.uk or calling 0300 500 0914.

How can I help?

If you are concerned about someone sleeping rough, you can refer them to local services through the Streetlink website www.streetlink.org.uk, by calling 0300 500 0914 or by downloading the Street Link App. Your information goes straight to our St Mungo’s outreach team to locate them and support them off the streets. If you want to donate then the Street Support Network can connect you to charities that need time, money or goods. Visit www.streetsupport.net/reading/.

Visit https://www.reading.gov.uk/article/12767/Rough-sleeping for more information about support offered by the Council and its partners in Reading.

David Millward

For media enquiries about this release email david.millward@reading.gov.uk or call 0118 937 4289