Preventing homelessness in Reading

Types of homelessness

You are homeless if you don’t have a stable, safe, appropriate or clean place to live – but what are the different types of homelessness and what support is available?

Statutory homeless

In 2017, 427 housing applications were made to Reading Borough Council and 290 were accepted. If you become homeless, you are only legally entitled to be housed by your local authority if you are deemed to be statutory homeless. To be classed as statutory homeless and legally entitled to be housed in some way, you have to fulfil ALL five of the criteria below:

  1. Have nowhere suitable to live – e.g. you have no legal right to the accommodation in which you live, your accommodation is overcrowded, or you are likely to lose your home within the next 28 days.
  2. Be eligible for help – this is to make sure that you are able to receive help from a local council in this country who will consider things such as your immigration status and whether or not you normally live in the UK.
  3. Be in priority need – this will determine whether or not you are in one of the pre-defined groups of people who are prioritised for assistance including pregnant women, those with dependent children, care leavers and young people aged 16-17.
  4. Not be ‘intentionally’ homeless – you will be classed as intentionally homeless only if you deliberately did (or did not do) something which made you homeless without good reason.
  5. Have a connection with the local area – the local council which provides you with help has to be one which you have some kind of connection with, such as you have lived, worked or have family connections there.

If someone doesn’t meet any one of these conditions, they are deemed to be non-statutory homeless and won’t necessarily be housed.

Rough sleeping

As rough sleeping is the most visible type of homelessness, many are unaware that it is just the tip of the iceberg of the homelessness problem. However, it’s still a very significant issue and rough sleeper numbers have been on the increase since 2010.

Sleeping on the streets is dangerous and a serious health risk – according to the Office of National Statistics, the average age of a rough sleeper at death is 44 years for men and 42 years for women. Crisis also revealed people sleeping on the streets are 17 times more likely to be a victim of a crime.

At the last count in Reading in November 2017, a total of 25 people were recorded as rough sleeping in Reading. Launchpad partners with organisations such as St Mungo’s and The Salvation Army in Reading to support rough sleepers. St Mungo’s street outreach team builds trust with rough sleepers to support them into treatment and accommodation throughout the year and The Salvation Army in Reading provide bed spaces for up to 38 people, including emergency spaces for people with and without a local connection.

Severe Weather Emergency Provision (SWEP) is also at The Salvation Army, which gives rough sleepers access to an emergency bed if the Met Office forecasts that temperatures in Reading will drop below -1°C for three or more consecutive nights. Launchpad provides two volunteers for each SWEP night – who welcome people off the streets, and get them a hot drink and some food. We also provide beds, sleeping bags, towels and other resources whenever SWEP is activated.

It’s important to note that begging and rough sleeping aren’t necessarily the same. Find out more about begging . If you’re worried about a rough sleeper, read more about how you can help.

Hidden homeless

Many people who lose their home don’t go to their local authority for support or aren’t entitled to be placed in long-term housing because they’re single – but they don’t end up on the streets. They stay with family or friends (sofa-surfing), live in squats or sleep in emergency accommodation such as B&Bs. They are called the hidden homeless.

The hidden homeless exist out of sight so they aren’t usually counted in official statistics and are therefore hard to quantify. However, according to a report published by the London Assembly, there are an estimated thirteen times as many hidden homeless in London as those sleeping rough – which gives some idea of the scale of the problem.

Temporary solutions to housing are often over-crowded, unclean and unsafe – and certainly don’t offer a stable place to live. Many people get placed in B&Bs for months on end, where they share a bathroom and sometimes have no cooking facilities, waiting for longer-term accommodation. Some people have moved between friends’ sofas for years and face the nightly stress of finding somewhere else to stay.

How does Launchpad help?

There is no single solution to homelessness, which is why Launchpad offers a holistic service to prevent homelessness, provide homes and rebuild lives – and we work closely with Reading Borough Council, St Mungo’s, The Salvation Army, Iris and other organisations across Reading to tackle homelessness in the town together.  Find out more about our work.

We encourage anyone concerned about their housing situation to contact the Homeless Prevention Service at Reading Borough Council in the first instance. They run drop in sessions at the Civic Offices from 9.00am to 5.00pm, Monday to Friday. Email housing.advice@reading.gov.uk or call 0118 937 2165.

Launchpad’s drop-in service is also available to absolutely anyone who doesn’t have a stable place to live or is at risk of losing their home. You don’t need to be referred, simply come along to the Launchpad offices on Monday, Wednesday or Friday from 10.00am to 2.00pm.

In 2018, Launchpad helped over 1,400 people in Reading to get back on their feet, a figure which has doubled in just four years.