Team Launchpad raise £800 in Tribute Audax cycle ride

A total of £800 was raised by Team Launchpad during the annual Tribute Audax ride – a cycling challenge on Saturday 3 October which sees cyclists take on 50, 100 or 200km routes in aid of two charities, one of which was Launchpad.

Members of staff decided to gather a small team together to take part and fundraise so Launchpad can continue supporting vulnerable people in Reading. The brave team included fundraising manager Kate Martin, CEO Ian Caren, caretaker Paul Banks and supporters Laura and Edd Bilbe, and they completed 58km through Berkshire and Oxfordshire whilst battling the pouring rain and harsh winds. 

This year has seen many fundraising events get cancelled, postponed or hosted virtually, so when there was an opportunity to get involved in a fundraising challenge outdoors, Launchpad staff members jumped at the opportunity. It was another chance to raise money to prevent homelessness just before our leading event, Big Sleep Out at home launched the following week. Read all about that event in another one of our news stories here.

Kirsti Wilson, Head of Marketing and Fundraising at Launchpad, said: “I would like to thank the cyclists who took on the Audax challenge on Saturday 3 October in pretty tough conditions – we really appreciate your support and dedication! And we’d also like to say a big thank you to Audax for selecting Launchpad to benefit from the event. The funds raised really will help support Reading’s most vulnerable.”

The team started out in Caversham at around 9am, already soaked and cold, and completed the challenge in around five hours – as Kate Martin describes: “We were determined to stick together and finish as a team. Despite the weather, epic puddles, a punctured tyre and unfit team members, we managed to finish the challenge around 2pm. I want to thank everyone involved for such a great, well organised day and I can’t wait to do it all again in 2021.”

Kate Martin, all smiles on her bike

The Audax Cycle ride will return next year in April – if you would like to be involved with this cycle challenge then stay tuned on our website here to find out more soon or to register.

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.


Vote for Launchpad in the My Favourite Voucher Codes charity poll

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, in 2018/2019, we were able to help over 1,400 people in Reading to get back on their feet. In recent months, our services have become more vital than ever, and we want to make sure we can protect the most vulnerable people in our community. That’s why this August, Launchpad are teaming up with My Favourite Voucher Codes to take part in their charity poll. As one of four charities in the lineup, we’re in with a chance to win 20% of the site’s profits, which will help us continue to provide our support through our housing and homelessness services.

My Favourite Voucher Codes is a money saving website with a difference. In addition to helping their users save money whenever they shop, since their launch in 2012, they’ve raised over £58,000 for worthy causes. Every month, they donate 20% of their profits to one charity, voted for by their users. For the month of August, Launchpad are delighted to be one of the four nominated charities. At the end of the month, the charity with the most votes will win the donation, so we are calling on our wonderful supporters to vote for us.

How can you support Launchpad?

From the 1st of August, you can head over to My Favourite Voucher Codes to cast your vote for free. You don’t have to register or use any codes for your vote to count, and voting takes less than two minutes of your time. Simply visit the homepage where the poll is located on the right hand side, and select Launchpad. Click the red button to register your vote and that’s it! 

While you can vote for free, it’s worth browsing the site’s offers if you have any online shopping to do. With every code used, My Favourite Voucher Codes make a small commission at no extra cost to you, and this is how the donation to the winning charity is formed. So, by shopping through the site you’ll automatically be contributing to the amount we could win. The more voucher codes used, the bigger the donation, so be sure to share the site with your friends too! 

Supporting us in the charity poll this August will mean we can keep being there for the most vulnerable in our community, so please cast your vote for Launchpad! Thank you!

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:


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

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.


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!