Lord Bourne’s visit to Reading

Lord Bourne, Minister for Faith, politician and former professor of law visited Reading University on 28 June 2019 to meet with various representatives from faith groups working in the community that support people who are sleeping rough and homeless. 

The four key partners who met with Lord Bourne were:

Faith Christian Group which comprises local churches working together to support people who are homeless or in need in Reading – they deliver:

  • ReadiFood – A Food Bank
  • ‘A Bed for the Night’ – Reading Church’s Winter Shelter
  • ReadiStreet – Hot and cold food provision

The Mustard Tree which is a group of projects that supports, empowers and advocates for vulnerable people within the Reading community. The Mustard Tree enables social action and creates and supports initiatives which address unmet needs including:

  • Engage Befriending – Connecting isolated older people with their local community through regular visits from a volunteer befriender
  • Rahab – Identifying, supporting and empowering anyone who is affected by sexual exploitation, including those who sell sex services
  • Reading Lifeline – Counselling and support groups for those affected by infertility and baby loss during pregnancy or soon after birth

Street Pastors who are trained volunteers from local churches. They are present on the streets of Reading city centre on Friday and Saturday nights to care for,  listen to and help people who are out on the streets.

Sadaka are a local charity providing hot homemade meals, clothes and a listening ear to people who are sleeping rough or vulnerably housed.

It was fantastic to see these groups attend the meeting with Lord Bourne. It enabled him to get an understanding of some of the great work being done by some of the grass roots organisations to tackle homelessness in Reading. Should there ever be a similar opportunity in the future, it is hoped that more groups would be able to share their experiences and feedback.

One reoccurring theme was the lack of conversation between different faith groups in the city and if a more collaborative way of working could be taken, it was felt a more cohesive offer could be developed then Reading could respond to more people in need, as well as being able to help heal communities when disasters like Grenfell or a terrorist attack occur.

It almost goes without saying that the government long for greater community cohesion, for barriers to come down and bridges to be built. However, there is a lot of work to do in enabling statutory partners to understand why different faiths exist, what they stand for and what the real tensions are in working together.

With the implementation of Street Support Network Reading, we 

are hopeful that we will start to work together more effectively to work towards ending homelessness in our borough.