No families who found themselves homeless in Reading will have to celebrate Christmas in shared accommodation this year, thanks to Reading Borough Council’s proactive approach to finding suitable private accommodation for them.
For the third year in succession, all families who the Council have helped to find somewhere to stay will be able to enjoy the festive period without the need to do so in B&Bs or hotels, due to a strategic approach and range of measures to tackle housing issues and homelessness in the borough.
In 2017, over 130 families were in B&B accommodation in Reading, but within 18 months this had fallen to zero, an impressive record which has been maintained since. A strong early intervention approach to homelessness from the Council’s expert housing team, coupled with a holistic approach to solving homelessness issues - linking households in with services that address other problems they face – has paid dividends.
This has been strengthened further by the introduction of the borough’s innovative Rent Guarantee Scheme which has seen the Council develop close links with private sector landlords to provide decent housing for homeless households. This key approach which few councils offer allows landlords to provide accommodation without risk, resulting in a greater pool of housing being available to families. This scheme is currently helping over 600 Reading households to enjoy wider choice of better accommodation.
The Council’s focus on placing families in private accommodation has had further knock on benefits, felt by others in need of housing help in a difficult year in which coronavirus has increased the strain on housing stock.
COVID-19 prompted the Government’s “Everyone In” announcement in March, directing local authorities to provide offers of accommodation to rough sleepers and those at risk of rough sleeping. In Reading, those identified as verified rough sleepers were accommodated within a single night. In total over 260 people who were rough sleeping or at risk of rough sleeping were accommodated in a range of B&B’s and hotels across the borough.
That swift response was possible because the Council’s rent guarantee scheme and early intervention programme had taken families out of B&Bs, taking the pressure off the sector and freeing up capacity in the COVID-19 emergency to help accommodate others.
Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Housing, John Ennis, said: “Christmas is a magical time for families, and I am very proud that in Reading this Council has ensured that that families who found themselves homeless are again able to celebrate in appropriate accommodation thanks to the Council’s innovative approach. There is always more that needs to be done to help with rough sleeping. Reading Borough Council is known for its expertise in this field, and will continue to lead the way in addressing homelessness and reducing its impact”.
The Council is continuing to respond diligently and collaboratively to minimise rough sleeping in the area, working in partnership with a strong local support network including Launchpad, the Salvation Army, St Mungo’s, the faith sector and NHS outreach nurses to ensure as many people as possible can look forward to 2021 with optimism.