This is a first for me, as I have never done a blog before – so please do bear with me! A bit about how I became a trustee. I live in Reading and have been working as an architect in the area since 1972. In 1994, a housing association client of mine persuaded me to join him on Reading Single Homeless Project (RSHP)’s board of trustees. I personally have had a very limited experience of homelessness but I’ve always been very aware that shelter and the basic security of your own space are the foundation of a stable life, and we are all a few steps away from living on the streets. So I gladly joined to contribute to a good cause – even though I wasn’t aware what the duties and responsibilities of a trustee were, although I soon learned ‘on the job’!
How has the charity changed since I joined? At the time RSHP was a small organisation based in a very modest office on the third floor of a run-down building in the Oxford Road. RSHP had 36 beds in the town. Since then, we have moved offices four times, and are now established in the centre of Reading in Merchants Place. We rebranded so it was easier for people to associate and connect with who we are and what we do – which is why we are now called Launchpad. We now support over 1,000 people in Reading who are homeless or at risk of losing their home, and we provide supported housing for 100 people. And we have also finished refurbishing our new work and life skills centre, Launchpad 135, which will be a place for our clients to learn new skills, build confidence and get back into work.
When I joined, our aim was to steadily grow the organisation and as you can see, over the last 25 years the charity has done just that. This has been possible not only because of the amazing support and generosity of our local community – but it’s also been helped by the decision to buy properties for our supported housing rather than renting them wherever possible – a key philosophy I was keen to push through from the first day I joined. Another reason we have grown and flourished over the years, is because of our broad cross section of devoted trustees and talented, dedicated staff – who are all focused on providing the very best support for the most vulnerable in Reading.
What now? As you can probably imagine, this last year has been one of the most difficult periods in Launchpad’s history – as it has for all charities I’m sure – and the challenges are continuing into 2021. We are being forced to cancel more events as the months tick by and our fundraising team are doing everything they can to raise money in this difficult climate, so we can continue our vital services. Our incredible support staff and volunteers are working tirelessly to do their jobs as safely as they possibly can on the front line – providing people who are homeless or worried about losing their homes with a lifeline – whether that be with information and support, legal advice, supported housing or things like counselling. Now isn’t about planning or growth, it’s a time to focus on the task in hand – and I’m incredibly proud of the entire charity’s efforts to ensure we are providing a key service to everyone who desperately needs help during the pandemic.
When we are through this awful time, I know we can build ourselves back up, regain our strength and once again focus on our objective – to grow the charity and help even more people in need in Reading.