Big Sleep Out at home raises double the fundraising target

Our virtual event, Big Sleep Out at home, saw 190 people from across Berkshire sleep in their garden on Saturday 10 October, to mark World Homeless Day and raise a total of £50,000 and counting to prevent homelessness in Reading – double the event’s fundraising target of £25,000!

Instead of cancelling our much-loved annual fundraiser, we adapted the Big Sleep Out to ensure it was COVID-safe and asked supporters to swap their comfortable beds for a sleeping bag in their garden – all to help raise £25,000 so we can continue ensuring vulnerable people in Reading don’t lose their home and spend night-after-night on the streets.

On the night, participants enjoyed a packed programme of information and entertainment via Facebook Live from 6pm – which included videos from Launchpad clients who were at risk of losing their home; a cardboard den building segment with Launchpad patron Matt Allwright; a quiz with BBC radio broadcaster Michelle ‘Babs’ Jordan; a cook-a-long with Caversham’s Vegivores restaurant; and a bedtime story read by broadcaster Chris Tarrant. Participants then bedded down before tuning back in at 7am for a morning message from the fundraising team at Launchpad.

The individuals, couples, families, businesses, schools and community groups taking part all had access to downloadable fundraising resources on our website – such as printable posters, social media images and instructions on how to set up a JustGiving page – and were asked to raise a minimum of £250. The event’s top fundraisers are Steve Scrace and David Lewis, who smashed their target and raised £2,498.85 and £1,750.33 respectively.

Now in its 15th year, the Big Sleep Out has raised a total of £300,000 so we can continue providing vital information and support for individuals, couples and families who are at risk of losing their home. This includes those who are victims of domestic abuse, army veterans, and people leaving care or prison with nowhere to go; those who struggle with numeracy and literacy and can’t access the benefit system to pay rent; and people battling issues such as addiction, debt management and poor mental health. We offer a drop-in service; housing-related legal advice; and works with clients to stop a housing problem becoming a crisis, which includes providing tailored support plans for periods of three to six months to achieve long-term independence and stability.

Kirsti Wilson, Head of Marketing and Fundraising at Launchpad, explains more about the event:

“We didn’t want COVID-19 to put a stop to the Big Sleep Out but it was a risk hosting the event entirely online after we had such success at the Reading Abbey Ruins in 2019. But once again the people of Reading and our supporters across Berkshire got behind Launchpad. We are bowled over by just how many people took part and by the incredible fundraising total, which exceeded our expectations. It is truly humbling that our community continue to support vulnerable people at a time that is so difficult for everyone.

“Despite the physical distance, there was a real feeling of togetherness on the night of the Big Sleep Out at home – with participants discussing their experiences and sharing photos from their back gardens on social media. While the event doesn’t aim to replicate homelessness, it does give a brief insight into some of the things you might experience if you were sleeping rough and many people taking part were shocked at the cold temperatures and uncomfortable bed – and came away with a  greater understanding of what many of our clients may face.” 

Our next fundraising event would have been Carols by Candlelight, previously held at Reading Minster – but due to continued uncertainty around large-scale events, the service has been cancelled. However, we are planning a programme of events for 2021 – so watch this space!

Check out photos from the Big Sleep Out at home!

Chris Tarrant, Matt Allwright and Michelle ‘Babs’ Jordan to make special guest appearances at the Big Sleep Out at home

We’re excited to announce that Chris Tarrant, Launchpad patron Matt Allwright, and BBC Radio’s Michelle ‘Babs’ Jordan will be making guest appearances at the Big Sleep Out at home – which is taking place on World Homeless Day, Saturday 10 October, to help raise £25,000 to prevent homelessness in Reading.

The event, which has been adapted for 2020 so participants sleep out in their gardens rather than at Reading Abbey Ruins, will start with a packed programme of entertainment live-streamed via Facebook.

Matt and Michelle will host the evening from 6pm – and they will be challenging participants to build a den made out of cardboard, get their thinking caps on for a quiz and take part in a meal challenge that will see a dish cooked from items found in a food parcel.

Before participants bed down for the night, radio and television broadcaster Chris Tarrant will be reading a bedtime story to everyone taking part. 

While the Big Sleep Out at home doesn’t aim to replicate homelessness, it is a challenge that will give participants a brief insight into some of the things you might experience if you were sleeping rough – such as cold temperatures, an uncomfortable bed and limited sleep.

And every pound raised for Launchpad helps ensure people at risk of homelessness in Reading don’t have to face those conditions night-after-night.

Book your place for the Big Sleep Out at home – tickets are priced at £15 per person or £40 for a group of four.

 

University of Reading’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Robert Van de Noort, announced as new patron

Professor Robert Van de Noort has joined Launchpad as a patron and will be taking part in the Big Sleep Out at home later this year on World Homeless Day, Saturday 10 October.

An extremely valued supporter of Launchpad, Robert joins the charity’s roster of patrons – which includes the Earl and Countess of Canarvon, Sir John Madejski, Matt Allwright and Danyl Johnson – to help increase our profile and spread good news about the work we do to prevent homelessness in Reading.

Robert’s first event as patron will be the the Big Sleep Out – which is being hosted virtually this year on World Homeless Day, Saturday 10 October. The Big Sleep Out at home will see participants take on the challenge of swapping a comfortable bed for a sleeping bag in their garden – all to help raise £25,000 so we can continue our vital work ensuring vulnerable people don’t lose their home.

Professor Robert Van de Noort has been the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading since 2019, and has general responsibility for maintaining and promoting the effectiveness, efficiency and good order of the University.

Professor Van De Noort joined the University of Reading in 2014, and his research expertise is in the archaeology of marine, intertidal and terrestrial wetlands. Robert also chairs the Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, which helps manage flood risk in the region.

Kirsti Wilson, head of marketing and fundraising at Launchpad, said:

“Launchpad was founded as a soup kitchen in 1979 by students at the University of Reading and we are thrilled to welcome the institution’s Vice-Chancellor to the charity as a patron, more than 40 years later. Robert himself has supported the charity for a number of years with regular donations and by taking part in our fundraising events, and his great passion for the community of Reading and our cause is truly inspirational. It will be a real honour to work closely with him to prevent homelessness in Reading – and we are delighted he has already pledged to brave the outdoors in his garden for the Big Sleep Out at home in October!”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Robert Van De Noort said:

“The University of Reading has played an important role in the formation of Launchpad and so I’m delighted to continue the close links between our organisations in the role of Patron.

“The role of universities in civic life is more crucial than ever, through our research, our partnership with local communities and businesses, and through the many ways that our staff and students contribute to Reading. My role at Launchpad is just a small part of a greater connection between the University and the town, making the University not just of Reading, but for Reading too.”

Booking is now open for Big Sleep Out at home and tickets are priced at £15 per person or £40 for a group of four.

 

Launchpad announces new location for annual Big Sleep Out – your home!

We didn’t want COVID-19 and social distancing to put a stop to the much-loved annual event, the Big Sleep Out. Which is why this year, we are hosting the event virtually and asking people to brave the outdoors on World Homeless Day, Saturday 10 October, to raise vital funds – in a garden!

The Big Sleep Out at home will see participants take on the challenge of swapping a comfortable bed for a sleeping bag in their garden, or a friend or family member’s garden, where they will join others in live streaming a packed programme via Facebook Live from 6pm. The virtual event will include activities such as den building and cooking with the contents of a food bank parcel; hearing from Launchpad clients who have experienced homelessness; and listening to a bedtime story from a special guest before bedding down for the night under the stars.

Now in its 15th year, the Big Sleep Out has raised £250,000 to date to help Launchpad prevent homelessness in Reading and in 2020, we are hoping the Big Sleep Out at home will raise a further £25,000 so we can continue our vital work ensuring vulnerable people don’t lose their home. Particpants are being asked to raise £250 and have been provided with downloadable digital resources in the Big Sleep Out at home guide on our website – which includes printable posters, social media images and instructions on how to set up a JustGiving page.

Kate Martin, Fundraising Manager at Launchpad, explains more: “We simply couldn’t let the pandemic ruin Launchpad’s Big Sleep Out – not only as it’s one of the most popular dates in our calendar, but also because it’s our biggest fundraising events of the year and enables us to continue our work preventing homelessness. Helping people in Reading avoid rough sleeping is more important now than ever before as we see the devastating impact the pandemic and subsequent lockdown has had on our community, with many at risk of becoming homeless due to postponed eviction, furlough, redundancy or illness. Our teams have already seen an increase in enquiries from people in need and this is likely to continue.

“By taking part in the Big Sleep Out at home from the safety of a garden, or an office or business park, and by live streaming the event – you will feel part of a community-wide event and get a brief insight into some of the things you might experience if you were sleeping rough, such as cold temperatures, an uncomfortable bed and limited sleep. And with every pound you raise for Launchpad, you are ensuring people at risk of homelessness in Reading don’t have to face those conditions night-after-night.”

The Big Sleep Out at home raises money so we can continue our work providing vital information and support for individuals, couples and families who are at risk of losing their home. This includes those who are victims of domestic abuse, army veterans, and people leaving care or prison with nowhere to go; those who struggle with numeracy and literacy and can’t access the benefit system to pay rent; and people battling issues such as addiction, debt management and poor mental health. Our teams provide tailored support plans for periods of three to six months and works with clients to tackle whatever is holding them back or having an impact on their housing situation, so they can achieve long-term stability and independence.

Booking is now open for Big Sleep Out at home and tickets are priced at £15 per person or £40 for a group of four.

Find out more about Big Sleep Out at home and book your place.

 

How are we safely welcoming clients back into our building for support?

 

During lockdown, we have adapted our services so we could continue providing vital support to our clients, and vulnerable individuals, couples and families, while keeping everyone safe and well. This included providing daily telephone support to clients instead of face-to-face meetings; taking housing and homelessness enquiries over the telephone instead of seeing people at our drop-in service; and ensuring staff wear hazmat suits, visors and gloves when moving individuals into our accommodation.

For the last few weeks, we have been working hard to ensure that we can safely start to open the building to clients and people in need of support, ready for when lockdown started to ease. This has included renovating our meeting rooms so we can socially distance during support and assessment meetings, stocking up on gloves, visors, masks and hand sanitiser, and thoroughly cleaning the offices at regular intervals throughout the day. There has also been, and will continue to be, a limited number of Launchpad staff and volunteers in the office so social distancing can be observed.

Please watch this video before you visit us, for more details about the changes we have made and the guidelines we have put in place to keep staff, clients and visitors safe.

As of Friday 10 July 2020, we are safely starting to welcome back clients and people who need support to our building in the following way:

Drop-in:

If you have a housing or homelessness issues and would like face-to-face support and information, we are now accepting visitors to our drop-in service, which is operating at reduced hours. You don’t need to be referred or book an appointment – simply visit our offices on a Monday or Friday between 11.00am and 1.00pm, and one of our team members will be able to help. Sessions will be kept to 20 minutes and please note that you may be asked to return at a later time or date if we do not have capacity to see you.

Information and support will still be available for anyone with a housing or homelessness issue from 10.00am to 4.00pm, Monday to Friday, by calling 0118 929 1111 or emailing support@launchpadreading.org.uk

Supported housing clients:

The supported housing team are continuing to support clients over the telephone in the first instance but can offer pre-booked, face-to-face meetings in the office if necessary. There will now be a limited number of face-to-face assessments and sign-ups in the office and fortnightly property visits will be reintroduced where staff will use appropriate PPE and observe social distancing guidelines. Please speak to your support worker if you have any questions.

Floating support clients:

The floating support team are continuing to carry out the majority of assessments and support over the telephone in the first instance. Pre-booked, face-to-face meetings may be offered to clients if necessary. Please speak to your support worker if you have any questions.

Activities for clients:

We are continuing to suspend our activities – such as sewing, art, and our education, training and employment hub – to protect our clients, staff, volunteers and the community. All clients will be contacted directly to notify them when activities are reinstated.

External meetings:

Launchpad staff who do not directly support clients have been asked to work from home and will not be booking face-to-face meetings in the office with external visitors. The following departments are contactable via email – Marketing and Fundraising, HR, Finance, Volunteering and Activities.

Volunteers:

Over the coming weeks, we are welcoming back a small group of volunteers so we can run a reduced drop-in service and start to offer face-to-face counselling – while still observing social distancing guidelines in the office.

We currently have no requirements for new volunteers, and we have asked the majority of current volunteers and students on placement to remain at home. All volunteers will be sent communications via email from Launchpad’s volunteer manager, and alerted when the situation changes.

Our aim is to keep our clients, staff, volunteers, partner agencies and the community safe at this time, while we continue providing vulnerable people in Reading with the vital support they need.

Thank you for your patience and understanding, and please check back for regular updates as we continue to review the situation and respond as necessary.

COVID-19 emergency appeal reaches £42,000

Back in April we launched our COVID-19 emergency appeal so we can continue delivering our vital support to extremely vulnerable people during the outbreak – and you have helped us smash our target and raise a magnificent £42,264!

As a charity, our fundraising was inevitably going to take a hit because of the pandemic – events like Reading Half have been postponed, many businesses are not in a position to support us, people are more strapped for cash than before, and schools can’t hold their fundraising activities. But Launchpad’s services are a lifeline to hundreds and we needed to continue supporting local people, more so than ever before.

Which is why we asked you, the Reading community, to help us raise £30,000.

With the help of our local community, during the pandemic we have been able to continue giving people who are homeless a clean, safe and stable place to live in our support housing; providing emotional support for our clients; and helping with practical things such as delivering food and cleaning supplies. We have also introduced our ‘here for you’ telephone service whnich offers anyone a listening ear.

Ian Caren, CEO of Launchpad said: “Whether you made a donation via our JustGiving page, have taken part in one of our Quarantine Quizzes held online or shared our appeal on social media over the last few months – you have helped us raise more than our target so we can continue supporting extremely vulnerable at a particularly difficult time. Thank you for your incredible help. Reading’s community spirit never cease to amaze me.

“But we’re certainly not out of the woods yet because we are sure the impact of the pandemic on homelessness will be felt by the people of Reading for a long time to come – whether there’s a second spike or a recession, or not. We have already been working furiously with Reading Borough Council to house those individuals put in emergency hotels and B&Bs at the start of lockdown and have seen an increase in enquiries from people with housing issues. One thing is for certain – that we will continue doing everything we can to prevent homelessness.”

Read Craig’s story – he found himself homelessness in the middle of lockdown.

If you’d like to help secure our future and enable us to plan ahead – you can set up a regular donation.

AND Digital helps Launchpad move into a new digital era

The Reading brand of tech delivery specialist, AND Digital, offered Launchpad free technical support on our website earlier this year – and has now moved our website to a new editable platform and given it a whole new look!

AND and Launchpad started working together after the AND team wanted to offer some pro bono digital development and support to a local charity – and it was our work with people who are homeless or at risk of losing their home in Reading that resonated strongly with staff.

Back in January 2020 AND worked with us to identify the areas of the organisation that could benefit from a digital overhaul – and the website was identified as something that had become increasingly difficult to manage effectively in-house. To fix the problem, a site-wide rebuild on a new, editable platform began with members of AND’s Reading office and they delivered a brand new responsive, user-friendly website in April. The team also set up a Google Analytics dashboard for the charity so we can monitor the website’s performance and improved our SEO (search engine optimisation).

Ian Caren, CEO of Launchpad, said: “The relaunch of our website has come at a critical time for Launchpad. It’s imperative that we effectively communicate how we are continuing to support extremely vulnerable individuals, couples and families in our local area during the pandemic, whether that’s for our current clients; people who need to access our help urgently; or for people who want to support our work with a donation. The Covid-19 outbreak has had, and will continue to have, a huge impact on housing and homelessness, and we are expecting an increase in need in the coming weeks and months.

“Having a new website has been crucial in helping us clearly communicate any changes and updates to our operations, and has also enabled us to launch an emergency appeal so we can raise funds to support our work during the pandemic. This would not have been as easy to do with our old website. We are hugely grateful to the AND Digital team for the immense value they have added. Their help, hard work and support has meant a lot to us here at Launchpad.”

Shan Beerstecher, Club Executive for the Reading-based team at AND Digital, said: “It’s been extremely rewarding to work with Launchpad and give back to our local community in some way – and while it didn’t start out with responding to Covid-19 in mind, it’s been vital for the charity to have a fully-functioning, easy-to-use website at this time. We truly believe in the fantastic work done by Launchpad in preventing homelessness and helping people affected by homelessness to rebuild their lives.

“We’ve worked closely with the whole team there to make the site more intuitive and user-friendly, and to ensure that uploading content is simple and straightforward to do. This will save the team invaluable time, and allow them to focus on other critical tasks within the organisation.”

Following AND Digital’s extensive overhaul of our website, Launchpad is now working with specialist web design and digital agency, Orange Grove, for ongoing technical and development support.

Local artist raises over £1k selling political fashion via Instagram for causes including Launchpad

Reading-born 20 year-old Jessy Blakemore has raised £1070 to date for charities including Launchpad, by hand painting t-shirts and corsets and selling them via Instagram – with 103 sold and just as many on order.

After boredom set in during lockdown at her family home in Reading, Jessy – who is studying Philosophy at the University of York, and enjoys painting and singing in her spare time – started hand painting Basquiat-inspired art onto a top. She posted her creation on Instagram to her 5,000 followers and received countless messages and comments, requesting that Jessy make more to sell.

Since the end of April, Jessy has been selling her hand-painted t-shirts for £15, long sleeve tops for £20 and corsets for £35 – and her political fashion makes statements about vulnerable individuals in society, racism and an underfunded health system in the UK. All profits from her sales are then donated to Launchpad; You Okay Doc?, a mental health charity for doctors; NHS Charities Together; and Black Lives Matter charities and crowd funding pages for people including Belly Mujinga and George Floyd.

Jessy explained how she feels about the popularity of her tops and why she chose those causes to donate to: “What started as a distraction from uni work and lockdown, has become a really amazing opportunity to do something creative for some good causes. I’m really pleased with how popular the tops have been and how much they’ve raised for charity so far – I’ve had orders from across the UK and abroad (Finland, Portugal, Singapore, Paris and Amsterdam), some of which I’ve had to put on hold so I can keep up with the demand! I think the art reflects the feelings and frustrations of many people at the moment, and I’ve picked charities which directly relate to the statements the tops are making – all of which mean a lot to me personally.

“I live in Reading and see the amazing work Launchpad do to support people who are homeless and in need in my town, and they’ve continued that work with the pandemic going on. There has been social, economic and political inequality and a systemic maltreatment of black people that has lasted hundreds of years, which continues on today with no sign of relenting. Our NHS workers don’t get treated fairly or given decent wages for the life-saving work they do, especially in how they’ve put themselves at risk during COVID-19. So the money raised is a small way of supporting minority communities through the racism they face in the UK, for people in need in Reading, and for key workers risking everything to care and support the rest of us.”

Kate Martin, Fundraising Manager at Launchpad said: “Jessy is a true inspiration using her time and talent in lockdown to raise vital funds for such important causes. We were bowled over when we saw her amazing creations – fundraising has never looked so cool! And it’s efforts from people like Jessy which make our work during the pandemic possible.

“Despite the challenges of COVID-19, we are providing our clients with emotional support and ensuring they have access to the food, treatment and benefits they need – and we are housing rough sleepers so they have a clean, stable and safe place to live. We are so grateful to Jessy and our wider local community for making that possible.”

Jessy has been taking orders for the tops and corsets via her Instagram page – with payment being made by Paypal, which she then donates to Launchpad and her other chosen charities, minus costs for the garments and paint. There is currently a one week wait for orders. Don’t miss your chance to get some beautifully hand-painted and unique clothing – all to raise money for good causes, including Launchpad!

Reading musicians release lockdown album in aid of Launchpad’s COVID-19 emergency appeal

Earlier this month, a group of Reading based musicians released Musos4…Reading’s Homeless – a compilation album of new songs from local artists, all to raise money for Launchpad’s COVID-19 emergency appeal.

The album was the brainchild of seven musicians from Reading – who recognised an opportunity during lockown. “Most musicians want to play and get their music to an audience,” said Jan Rylewicz, of punk band Pioneers of Green, “but with the lockdown, that wasn’t happening.  In discussion with friends in other bands, we came up with the idea of putting something together.”

A call for local contributing artists was sent out on social media and it had an overwhelming response across a wide range of musical genres. The team had a difficult job of selecting the songs for the album as they were keen to showcase the breadth of musical talent from across Reading and Berkshire, and across all styles – from punk to ska, and electro to ballads. A total of seventeen songs were selected and the album is now available on on Bandcamp and costs only £10.

All money from the sales of the album will help to support our work during the pandemic, as Derek Walsh of the band Forbury, explains. “It was very important to us all that we could help vulnerable people with this project, by raising some money to help them. I was aware of the important work that Launchpad do, and when I suggested that we could support Launchpad, the team were very keen to raise money for them, especially during the current lockdown which has made things even more difficult for homeless people.”

Kate Martin, Fundraising Manager at Launchpad, said: “We are so grateful to Musos4 and all the contributing artists for their incredible support. Putting together an album of local musicians is such a fantastic idea, and it’s even better that the group have chosen to support Launchpad with the venture. The album proves that Berkshire is a county full of talent!

“Launchpad is pulling out all the stops to help extremely vulnerable individuals, couples and families in Reading during the pandemic, while ensuring we keep our staff, clients and members of the public safe. But we simply cannot deliver our crucial services without the support of the local community and initiatives like this.”

The group hope that they will be able to continue bringing together Berkshire’s musicians while supporting local charities through album releases, live gigs and festivals.

Download Musos4…Reading’s Homeless album and help support extremely vulnerable people in Reading.

Our services during the pandemic

Launchpad staff are key workers during this national emergency and we are pulling out all the stops to ensure our clients and members of the public receive vital support during the pandemic – while keeping our teams, clients and the community safe.

We are actively monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and senior management are regularly meeting to respond to the developing situation and make the necessary changes to our work and services.

Please see below for all service amendments. The page will be updated regularly, so please check back.

If you think you may have Coronavirus (COVID-19), please follow the current Government advice.

Supported housing and floating support clients

Please note that while we are not having face-to-face support meetings, our teams are still working at Launchpad’s office to make daily calls and offer emotional support, check everyone is safe and well, and ensure you have the resources you need at this difficult time.

If you would like to speak to your support worker or there is an issue with your property, please call 0118 929 1111 or email support@launchpadreading.org.uk from 10.00am to 4.00pm, Monday to Friday.

If you have an emergency, please call 999.

Covid-19 ‘here for you’ telephone service for the Reading community

Community is important to Launchpad and during these uncertain and unprecedented times, we want to do everything we can to support people in Reading. Our ‘here for you’ telephone service is for absolutely anyone in need – whether they have housing or homelessness issues or not. This might include those who are self-isolating or social distancing and feeling lonely; people who need support with practical issues; and those who feel concerned about the future and their loved ones.

While we are unable to provide resources such as food packages and our staff are not trained counsellors, we can signpost to services in the Reading area and offer a listening ear at a difficult time.

Please call our team on 0118 929 1111 or email support@launchpadreading.org.uk from 10.00am to 4.00pm, Monday to Friday.

Do you have a housing or homelessness issue?

We are no longer accepting visitors to our drop-in service at Launchpad’s offices – but if you have a housing or homelessness issue, and need information and support, please call 0118 929 1111 or email support@launchpadreading.org.uk from 10.00am to 4.00pm, Monday to Friday.

Please note, we will not be providing drop-in outreach as per our usual schedule at locations such as CIRDIC or Probation.

Activities for clients

We are suspending our activities – such as sewing, art, and our education, training and employment hub – to protect our clients, staff, volunteers and the community. All clients will be contacted directly to notify them of the cancellations and will be made aware when activities are reinstated.

Contacting our non-support teams

Launchpad staff who do not directly support clients have been asked to work from home. The following departments are contactable via email during this time – Marketing and Fundraising, HR, Finance, Volunteering and Activities.

Volunteers

We currently have no requirements for new volunteers, and are asking current volunteers and students on placement to not attend the office and carry out their role at this present time. All volunteers will be sent communications via email from Launchpad’s volunteer manager, and alerted when the situation changes.

Our aim is to keep our clients, staff, volunteers, partner agencies and the community safe at this time, while we continue providing vulnerable people in Reading with the vital support they need.

Thank you for your patience and understanding, and please check back for regular updates as we continue to review the situation and respond as necessary.