Preventing homelessness in Reading

Meet Geoff*

Geoff’s mum died of cancer when he was five. He has a very vivid memory of sitting by her bed in the living room with his wooden train. He sometimes wonders if life would have been different if his mum hadn’t died when he was so young.

Geoff grew up to be an equipment engineer and after a 25 year career he decided he wanted a change and became a courier. Driving across the county gave him the chance to pursue his photography hobby. He’d photograph anything; landscapes, people and animals.

He was very much a happy-go-lucky character, especially around his sister. Geoff helped her regularly with her landscaping business; they were the best of friends.

Then his life changed. Ten years ago, Geoff’s sister died of a brain tumour at 34. He realises now that he didn’t grieve for her properly at the time.

After this tragedy, Geoff started to rack up debt through buying camera equipment, hi-fis and Play Stations – he loves gadgets. The more debt he got into, the unhappier he became.

Geoff moved to Reading for work, but had nowhere to live. He slept in the work van before washing and shaving in the office every morning.

His friends eventually found out what he was doing and invited him to stay with them. Geoff was very happy living with them, but after two years they found out about his debt, which was now around £50,000. They couldn’t risk the bailiffs coming to their house and regrettably asked Geoff to leave.

Geoff had to go to the council; he’d never asked for help in his life, always worked and had never claimed benefits. But he’s now in his sixties and could no longer live out of a van.

He was fortunate enough to be found sheltered housing. The council also referred Geoff to Launchpad, to our preventing homelessness service. This was to help ensure he kept on the right track.

When he came into Launchpad, Geoff sat down with Support Worker Lori and just talked. He had a cup of tea and got things off his chest, explaining his debts, depression and losing his sister.

One of the first things Lori did was to go with Geoff to Frontline to see if they could help with his debt and stop the intimidating phone calls, the threat of bailiffs and the letters demanding repayment. Frontline were able to reduce Geoff’s debt from £50,000 to £4,000 and his repayments to just £1 a month. This was a massive weight off his mind. He had been on antidepressants for just three months and was able to come off them. Geoff is determined to stay off them.

He also needed help setting up all of his utility bills. His step-mum and ex-wife (he was briefly married for three years) had always handled the money side of things. The warden at his sheltered housing helped with this.

Geoff was able to buy a fridge freezer for his flat from the British Heart Foundation shop and he is now saving for a vacuum cleaner.

Geoff couldn’t be happier; he’s a bubbly, confident character with a zest for life. His whole demeanour has changed since he first walked into Launchpad. He can’t describe how the last few months have gone from one extreme to the other. It’s like a dream.

Geoff is so grateful to Launchpad’s Lori, saying that she ‘deserves a medal’. He couldn’t believe it at Christmas when he received a present of a £5 Sainsbury’s Voucher. He never knew places like Launchpad existed.

He realises now how lucky he is. Geoff has good friends, gets to go fishing, does crosswords to keep his brain active and feels back to his normal self, the way he was before his sister died.

Launchpad’s preventing homelessness service

Floating Support is the national name for a service that prevents homelessness by helping people with a range of challenges. The service can be for anyone, including single parents, families, couples and single people. We help people find somewhere suitable to live. Those stuck in emergency B&B accommodation get help searching for long-term accommodation. We work to keep people in their home, by working with other local housing providers and landlords to avoid evictions. We help with benefits, budgeting and debt advice too.

We support over 200 people with the Launchpad Floating Support service, for between 3 and 6 months each. Our Floating Support aims to helping people settle down and achieve stability, to gain the skills, confidence and understanding to break out of difficult situations.

This help is available via a referral by Reading Borough Council or a probation or social worker. If you think you need this service, come to our Drop-in and we can help you to get referred.

* To help protect the privacy of those we help names have been changed