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19 November 2014, 08:43
Reading Borough Council will be working with voluntary and community sector partners once again this year to help homeless people during the worst of the winter weather.
As in previous years, the Council says it will do all it can to ensure that homeless people do not have to sleep rough by arranging extra emergency beds this winter.
The Council commissions a number of services to support and accommodate single homeless people.
In winter these local services provided by St Mungo's Broadway, Launchpad Reading, Riverside ECHG, the Salvation Army and CRI, work in partnership to ensure that anyone at risk of sleeping rough during severe weather is offered emergency accommodation.
During this time, extra support and advice is also available with the aim that people do not have to return to rough sleeping. Whilst the Council makes these services available all year round, people can be more likely to accept help during the winter months.
Severe Weather Emergency Provision (SWEP) has operated in Reading for many years and is activated whenever the Met Office forecasts three nights or more with a minimum temperature of 0°C or below.
Whilst last winter was one of the mildest for some decades, the demand for emergency shelter has increased over previous years, so hostels funded by Reading Borough Council are preparing to open up their communal areas to accommodate as many extra people as possible. Launchpad will carry out assessments and offer advice to anyone using emergency beds.
In common with the situation nationally, there is an increasing number of people requiring homelessness assistance in Reading. Unlike many authorities Reading Borough Council commissions a street outreach team, and this service, delivered by St Mungo's Broadway, works throughout the year to support rough sleepers into treatment and accommodation.
This concerted effort has helped to keep the number of rough sleepers in Reading low. However, due to the consistently high number of people newly identified as homeless, the official estimate of the number of people sleeping rough in Reading on any one night has increased this year to 12 (from 8 in 2013).
Earlier this year, Reading Borough Council entered into a new three-year contract with St Mungo's Broadway to ensure the valuable street outreach service continues.
Cllr Richard Davies, Reading Borough Council's Lead Member for Housing, said: "The Council works year round to offer support and accommodation to people so that they do not have to sleep rough. Particularly during the cold winter months, in partnership with our service providers, we work hard to ensure that there is safe and warm overnight accommodation available to anyone who would otherwise sleep rough, with support provided to stop people returning to the streets."