Help for the homeless as cold weather hits ReadingBy Linda Fort
January 18, 2013
As the cold weather bites agencies will be out working in partnership this weekend to help people sleeping rough on the streets.
And figures suggest the numbers of rough sleepers are going down in Reading.
During the cold weather period, Reading Borough Council works with charities and organisations like St Mungo’s, Hamble Court, Salvation Army, Waylen Street and Launchpad to make sure anyone found sleeping out is offered emergency accommodation, support and advice so they do not have to remain on the street.
The agencies involved use this as an opportunity to work with rough sleepers and encourage them to stay in accommodation for the long term.
This partnership has existed for many years and is activated whenever he Met Office forecasts three nights or more with a minimum temperature of 0°C or below.
Last winter, 46 people were offered emergency accommodation – 40 per cent of those accommodated were from outside the Borough. St Mungo’s is commissioned by the council to work with rough sleepers all year round to try to encourage them to take up accommodation and health services.
People new to rough sleeping in this area increased from 184 in 2010/11 to 230 in 2011/12.
So far this year the team has dealt with 119 new rough sleepers, 55 of whom came from outside the borough. Despite these numbers, overall fewer people have had to resort to sleeping rough on the streets of Reading because of the work of the council and its partners.
The average number of people sleeping rough on any given night fell from six in 2010/2011 to four at the moment.
Councillor Rachel Eden, Reading Borough Council’s lead member for neighbourhoods and housing, said: “With freezing temperatures returning, Reading as a town again expects to see an increase in the number of potential rough sleepers arriving in our town. The council, St Mungo’s and other charities work together in Reading to offer people beds and access to support services which help people off the streets, services which are often not available elsewhere.
“Unfortunately, council officers have told me that it is possible that the number of potential rough sleepers arriving in the town may rise even further in the coming year, and I am concerned that the economic situation means that Reading will no longer be able to buck the national trend.”