Thursday, 24 January 2013

Response to @38degrees campaign on rough sleepers


Members of 38degrees have been asked to email their local councillors about rough sleepers and the support that local councils over them in cold weather.   I am very glad that many people in Reading care deeply about people on the streets and have at the request of other councillors shared my response to residents with them.

Lots of the information will be familiar to regular readers of my blog as it's an issue I care very much about and I believe it is a mark of what makes Reading a civilised place to live that we have very strong services in place to help those finding themselves sleeping rough and at risk of it.

Anyway for those who it interests my response is below.

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Thank you for your email, I agree that this is a very important issue and I am glad you raised it as nationally the number of rough sleepers is going up.  While Reading is currently bucking the trend, as a result (I believe) of a preventative approach, with the continued pressure on people financially I am concerned that our town won't be able to cope with the increasing numbers of people coming onto the streets.

On the very urgent need for emergency accommodation in Reading in the cold weather we have a 'Severe Weather Emergency Protocol' which means that anyone who would be sleeping rough can come in from the cold.  In Reading this is also used as a way of engaging with people who are sleeping rough and seeing how we can help them move on in their lives and extra services are also provided, for example local charity Launchpad provides breakfast.  Reading can only do this by having the council and the voluntary sector work closely together as is done throughout the year - the best way to keep people safe is to help them stay off the streets for good.  This approach has made a real difference - on average in 2012 there were 4 people a night on our streets compared with 6 in 2011.  This is according to the independent count done by well regarded national charity St Mungos.  This is still more than I would like but is very different to many other areas including other local authorities in Berkshire.

As you may know the single best thing you can do to help rough sleepers in Reading at any time of year if you know where a rough sleeper is contact St Mungos who the council funds to provide outreach and support.  Their number is 0118 9585002 Mon-Fri 9am-5pm or email streetconcern@mungos.org.

I am very glad you raised this with me as I believe Reading can be proud of the decent way we treat rough sleepers and help people move on and I'm glad you care about this too.  I believe that this national trend is only going to get worse but here in Reading I hope that by all working together we can reduce the impact as much as possible both in emergency situations like this and helping people in a long term sustainable way.

I have copied two` recent council press releases that you may find of interest below.  Please go contact me if you have any questions or comments,

best wishes,

Rachel


Fewer People Sleeping Rough in Reading


14/01/2013
Reading Borough Council Press Release

As the cold snap returns this week, Reading Borough Council and its partners will again be working hard to ensure that fewer people will be sleeping rough on the streets of the town.

During this cold weather period, the Council works with partners such as St Mungo's, Hamble Court, Salvation Army, Waylen Street and Launchpad to ensure that anyone found rough sleeping is offered emergency accommodation, support and advice so that 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 remain in accommodation for the long term. This partnership arrangement has existed for many years and is activated whenever the Met Office forecasts three nights or more with a minimum temperature of 0°C or below. Last year, over the winter period 46 people were offered emergency accommodation; 40% of those accommodated in SWEP were from out of the Borough.

St Mungos are commissioned by the Council to work with rough sleepers all year round to try and encourage them to take up accommodation and health services that may be required. Newly arising rough sleepers increased from 184 in 2010/11 to 230 in 2011/12. So far this year the team have dealt with 119 new rough sleepers, 55 of which came from outside the borough. Despite these numbers, fewer people actually have 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 6 in 2010/2011 to just 4 at the present time..

Rachel Eden, Reading Borough Council's Lead Councillor 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 no 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."


Like London, Reading has a diverse community and a robust economy which attracts many into the town and increases the pressure on housing and on the Council's homelessness prevention service. To address these pressures, the Council developed a Homeless Pathway for single homeless people requiring supported housing and improved services whilst achieving budget savings.

Up against the pressures of increasing homelessness, the Council and its partners have been able to engage with more people supporting them into finding accommodation, accessing health services and more. Extensive work is also carried out to reconnect people who have moved into Reading to services from the area they came from.

ENDS

Notes for Editors: It has been reported by the specialist housing press that London has seen the number of rough sleepers rise by 31% as of the end of October 2012 compared to the same period in 2011 (http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/6524836.article).

The homeless charity Crisis has also reported that the number of rough sleepers across Britain has soared by 23% to 2,183 in the past year.


Severe Weather Emergency Provision

29/11/2012
Reading Borough Council Press Release

As in previous years, homeless people who find themselves on the streets in Reading are to be offered emergency extra beds during severe cold weather this winter.

The Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) is a partnership arrangement between Reading Borough Council, Launchpad, Hamble Court, the Salvation Army, Waylen Street and St Mungo's that has existed for many years and is activated whenever the Met Office forecasts three nights or more with a minimum temperature of 0°C or below.

During this time, St Mungo's coordinate extra accommodation in the communal areas of Reading's homeless hostels for anyone who would otherwise be sleeping rough.

St Mungo's are commissioned by Reading Borough Council to provide a street outreach team to support rough sleepers and assist them in moving into appropriate accommodation. During the cold weather, St Mungo's use the opportunity to engage with homeless people who may have been previously reluctant to access accommodation and support services.

In addition, this year Launchpad will be coordinating a breakfast drop-in for the use of SWEP clients. This will provide further opportunity for the St Mungo's team to assess and engage with homeless people and encourage them to access support service available.

Last year, over the winter period, 46 people were offered SWEP accommodation and only 5 refused. 40% of those accommodated in SWEP were from outside of the Borough. When St Mungo's carried out analysis in May of this year, they found that 28 (57% of those offered) of the homeless that had engaged with SWEP had gone on to find settled accommodation.


Reading Borough Council's Lead Councillor for Neighbourhoods and Housing, Rachel Eden, said: "Reading can be proud of the work that the Council, St Mungo's and the rest of the voluntary sector do in partnership all year round to support rough sleepers and help them back into accommodation; but particularly, as the nights draw in, I'd urge anyone who knows of a rough sleeper to contact St Mungo's or the Council so that they can make contact. During any prolonged cold weather, emergency measures are put in place and this can help people access services that can make a long term difference.'

Anyone concerned about a rough sleeper at any time of the year in Reading should contact Street Concern on 0118 9585002 Mon-Fri 9am-5pm or email streetconcern@mungos.org