People who sleep rough do so for many different reasons, usually a combination of one or more of the following: mental health issues, alcohol problems, a history of offending, drug misuse and relationship breakdown.
Not everybody sitting in a shop doorway begging is sleeping rough. For this reason a clear definition has been agreed on who does and who does not count as a rough sleeper:
People sleeping, about to bed down (sitting on/in or standing next to their bedding) or actually bedded down, in the open air (such as on the streets, in tents, doorways, parks, bus shelters or encampments). People in buildings or other places not designed for habitation.
In Reading, St Mungo’s work with the street homeless. Their Outreach Team monitors Reading night after night and in the early morning to find people who are sleeping rough. They find people sleeping rough for the first time and others with a history of rough sleeping and complicated problems that make it difficult to move off the streets.
St Mungo’s gradually build up trusting relationships to encourage those sleeping rough into accommodation and into getting help for the problems preventing them getting their lives back on track. But Outreach workers can’t force people to get help; they must want to help themselves.
The Salvation Army in Reading provide bed spaces for up to 38 people at the hub, including emergency spaces for people with and without a local connection. They can also house another 20 people in Reading. Support provided by the Salvation Army is tailored to the individual and is from seven days to twelve months, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you are concerned for someone you think is sleeping rough, let StreetLink know, they will help connect that person to the most appropriate support.
There is no need to approach someone you don’t know to ask them about their situation. This is the job of local services and many people sleeping rough have deep-rooted issues that require professional help. All you need to do is contact StreetLink and give them details about the person sleeping rough.
Some people have a history of rough sleeping, are known to local services and may require longer-term support to help them leave the streets. You can still use StreetLink. Their situation may mean that you don’t see a change straight away, as people need to want to get off the streets and unfortunately not everyone does.
Some people appear to be sleeping rough and may be involved in drinking or begging on the street, but do have somewhere to stay. If you’ve been sleeping on the street all night, legitimate rough sleepers are often trying to keep warm by staying inside where possible during the day, not on the streets begging . Those begging and drinking but who have somewhere to stay may need a different type of support from local services, and this may mean that you do not see a change straight away. This doesn’t mean your alert to StreetLink is wasted. It’s always better to get in touch about someone you think may be rough sleeping, so that local services can provide support if needed.
Rather than giving money directly to rough sleepers or beggars, we encourage you to support charities in Reading that can provide the best and most appropriate professional support depending on a person’s individual needs.
Charities we work with in Reading include:
Are you at risk of being homeless, sleeping rough or worried about someone?