Our outreach teams go out early in the morning and late at night, following up referrals from members of the public via StreetLink and from other local organisations who’ve told us they’re concerned about someone sleeping rough.
Some of those people might be newly rough sleeping and we talk to them, see what options there are to help them off the street as soon as possible. Others may be people who have been sleeping rough for some time, who may have complicated histories that have led them to sleep rough and who are working with to support them through their particular issues. These may include mental or physical health problems, eviction, welfare or benefit issues.
Ellie Alway-Thomas is manager of St Mungo’s Reading Outreach team. She has been working for St Mungo’s for five years, after previously working as an Outreach Coordinator in Oxford. She said, “It’s a challenge as the amount of people rough sleeping has been on the increase in Reading and across the country over the last decade. Last year there were over 165% more people sleeping rough in the UK than there were in 2010. Rough sleeping can be very dangerous so we’re working hard to support these people off the streets as quickly as possible.”
St Mungo’s also has two other projects in Reading – Housing Led that helps 10 people access B&Bs while they secure more stable accommodation and Housing First that supports five people with individual support to maintain a tenancy and 10 emergency sit-up beds in the Salvation Army’s Willow House hostel.
“One issue for us helping clients in Reading is being able to move them on into suitable accommodation, which is hard to find in the town as it is in many areas in the South East. Our clients also tell us that it’s not just about a roof over their head, it is about how they recover from homelessness. That links in with St Mungo’s vision overall, that everyone has a place to call home and the opportunity to fulfil their hopes and ambitions. As a charity with more than 130 services across the South and South West, St Mungo’s has developed projects that help people not only to move away from rough sleeping, into accommodation but also to help people to move on in their lives and achieve their potential.”
Recognising the need for more support for people looking to move on from homelessness, and also prevent people from becoming homeless, St Mungo’s is talking to local organisations about opening a new resource in Reading based on its existing Recovery Colleges in London and Bristol.
A new St Mungo’s Recovery College in Reading would be designed to welcome people into a supportive environment where they could build their skills and confidence to move into volunteering, training or employment. For example, in existing St Mungo’s Recovery Colleges in London and Bristol, people come along to courses on digital inclusion, on improving literacy and numeracy and also art, yoga, music.
Gavin Benn, Head of St Mungo’s Recovery College, said, “We’re at an early stage but are excited to bring additional resources and our recovery approach into Reading. We hope this new service will enable us to help even more people who are homeless or at risk, to build their confidence and move forwards in their lives and, for some, into employment. We know from feedback that thosewe support often feel excluded from mainstream opportunities. Everyone has skills and talents and St Mungo’s Recovery Colleges are places where clients, staff and volunteers come together to help people to rebuild their lives and fulfil their ambitions.”
Find out more about St Mungo’s and its Recovery College.