Getting into the Christmas Spirit by Helping the Homeless

From the Headmaster's Desk, November 27, 2017

As many of you know, next Friday night, 8th December, about 10% of our school will be participating in a fundraising Sleep Out here on site.  Sixth Form pupils will sleep outside overnight with just cardboard and a sleeping bag, and will be sponsored to raise money for Launchpad.

Launchpad is a local charity in Reading that helps prevent and break the cycle of homelessness.  Every homeless person has a story, and many of them need help.  Not everyone in life has a stable upbringing or support of family and friends to help them with setbacks.  Drugs, alcohol and mental health issues can also take their toll.

Local studies show that Reading has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country, and unfortunately this has grown by 30% in the past year.  The homelessness rate locally is more than twice as high as the national average.

Part of this is due to the fact that Reading has a thriving local economy.  This means house prices are high, and renting rates as well. As the local area is expensive and lacks affordable housing, this makes more people vulnerable to homelessness.

Launchpad, with bright and colourful offices in the centre of Reading, offers several services to battle homelessness.

First of all, they have a drop-in centre that is available to anyone who needs housing or advice related to homelessness.  This guidance can help people who are currently staying with friends or family, but do not have their own housing.  Or someone who is struggling with a landlord issue or even substance abuse.  Often, early advice can help prevent a problem from becoming a crisis.

Secondly, Launchpad offers clean, safe housing with individualised support, which helps people get back on track and make a positive impact in the community.  The support lasts for two years and currently Launchpad is housing 140 local people who have struggled with homelessness.

Launchpad also offers floating support that helps prevent homelessness.  This helps families or single parents who need support to stay in their homes.

Other services include an education, training and employment hub that helps people improve their education and work towards their goals.  They also offer counselling and opportunities for homeless people to do arts and crafts.

I know we often do things in the School for charity and over the years we have raised funds for a number of worthy causes, be it through tutor groups, houses or even whole school non-uniform days.

Over the course of this term I have learned more about the work of Launchpad, and the more I learn, the more I am impressed.  I asked my family this weekend not to buy me any Christmas presents, but instead donate money to the fundraising activity we are hosting here at the School for Launchpad.

It is a great privilege to live in this prosperous part of this prosperous country.  But, as the days grow shorter and the nights colder and longer, let us spare a thought for local people who do not have a warm, dry, cosy place to sleep.

The Christmas spirit includes many warm thoughts and ideals, but surely looking after those less fortunate than ourselves is the most noble thing that we can do, especially at Christmas.

I hope that you will all generously support our Sleep Out a week on Friday; here is a link to the Blue Coat Big Sleep Out Justgiving page.

Have a good week – stay warm, stay dry, and sleep well.

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