After confusion and lack of support with his benefits, Frank became street homeless when he was in his 60s. Within 24 hours, Launchpad housed him.
“I came to live in Reading in 1988 and was in private rented accommodation for many years before I got my name on the council house list, and in 2010 Reading Borough Council moved me into the first flat that I could call my own. It was in Whitley and it was great, and being there meant I had security.”
Frank had various jobs in Reading – working in Woolworths, a cash and carry and a newsagent in Broad Street Mall, but after suffering from severe anxiety and depression, he was signed off work and put on benefits.
Converting to Universal Credit
“I got Jobseekers’ Allowance at first but it’s when everything got converted to Universal Credit that my problems started. I thought my housing benefit was being paid straight to the council and was dealt with separately to anything I was getting. I had no idea that rent arrears were building up and when it was eventually picked up, I had to go to court in 2019 and discovered I was a few thousands of pounds behind. But it just kept getting worse.”
With various deductions to his Universal Credit, the pandemic hitting and Frank still unable to work – and with no support to make sense of his benefits package – the debt continued to spiral and he was left with very little, and was living hand to mouth.
“They were taking money for all sorts and sometimes I’d have £95 for a whole month – to pay for everything. Then I went to court again in June 2021 and discovered the debt was around £10,000 after all the court fees and fines were added. Then the same day I was in court, the bailiffs came around and changed all my locks, and I couldn’t get any access to my belongings. I contacted the council but there was nothing they could do, and they put my stuff in storage.”
Street homeless at 60
From that day, Frank was homeless and began living on the streets – sleeping in the train station foyer or on a park bench, and using a sleeping bag he’d found for warmth.
“I was 60 and rough sleeping – it was frightening. The week before I was still in my flat and had my own living room, kitchen, bathroom. I was chucked out because of the debt, and it felt like there was no one helping me. I pleaded with the court that I could put a payment plan in place, but they refused. What made it worse was that I was barred from getting a council house in Reading for 10 years, so I had nowhere to turn. I had no savings.”
Reading Borough Council referred Frank to Launchpad and he started working with Costas, one of Launchpad’s supported housing officers.
Getting a roof over my head with Launchpad’s supported housing
“When I first met Costas I’d been rough sleeping for a week and felt anxious, worried, depressed. I was at breaking point. But I’d heard of Launchpad and knew they could help people who were vulnerable. If anybody could help me, Launchpad could. Then, within 24 hours of meeting Costas, I had a place in their temporary supported housing and I had a roof over my head. I was so, so grateful.”
Frank was moved into one of Launchpad’s shared houses in Reading and had regular support sessions with Costas – where he would work through his personalised support plan to tackle issues such as mental health and budgeting, and look at his housing options. Costas gave Frank food parcels and helped him set up his single persons discount for council tax and apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), a benefit for people living with a long-term physical or mental health condition or disability.
“Costas helped me so much – he made sure I had enough to eat and helped me sort out all my benefits, and he worked really hard to get me a forever home again which was difficult because I wasn’t allowed a council house.”
Finding a long-term home
Costas supported Frank to secure a flat with a housing association, just six months after he first had contact with Launchpad. Frank moved on from our supported housing to his brand-new home in January 2022 with the help of Launchpad’s removals team. Launchpad sourced him a microwave, a single bed and mattress, and a kettle to get him started in his new home. Costas also worked with the housing association to ensure that an alternative payment arrangement was set up so Frank’s rent went directly to the housing association to avoid any arrears again.
“When we had the initial viewing to see the landlord and sign up to the property with the housing association, I thought I was in the twilight zone, I couldn’t believe it. He was going through all the paperwork and I was gobsmacked because it was so nice. It had just been redecorated, it’s such a good location being right next to the bus stop and near the shops. Having a home for life again is just astounding and I’m amazed. I’ve got my own bathroom, kitchen and living room and Launchpad helped me move there and helped me with things for the house. And all my money situation and benefits has been sorted by Costas – which was so confusing to deal with. What other organisations do that?
“If somebody said to me that I would be homeless when I was 60, I’d say that they were mad. For me to experience that at my age wasn’t very nice and to be chucked out of my home so quickly, and all my stuff put into storage, was a horrible nightmare. But now, because of Costas and Launchpad, only a few months later I have a roof over my head, I’m not in a mess with money and it’s a lovely home. And it feels good. If it hadn’t have been for Costas’ persistence, support and encouragement – he backed me up all the way – I wouldn’t be where I am now. In fact, I’d be in a rubbish dump in Reading somewhere.
“I can’t thank Costas and Launchpad enough and fortunately; we’ve still got organisations like this that can help people like me who are in dire straits.”