University of Reading: Homeless charity gets community fund boost

Reading homeless charity, Launchpad, has been able to buy vital resources for its work and life skills centre, thanks to a donation from the Community Fund, a joint initiative from the University of Reading and the John Sykes Foundation.

Established in 1979 by University of Reading students, Launchpad is Reading’s leading homelessness prevention charity. It provides support to help prevent homelessness, and to enable those that have been, or are currently, homeless to rebuild their lives. In 2021, Launchpad opened Launchpad 135, a work and life skills centre to enable vulnerable people to learn new skills, build confidence and get back into work.

Breaking down barriers

A picture of the Launchpad 135 buildingLaunchpad 135 works with people who are homeless or at risk of losing their home, and the service aims to help people tackle whatever is holding them back from resolving their housing situation, so they can achieve long-term stability and independence.

Members of the centre can access support for wellbeing, socialisation and self-esteem challenges, as well as practical support with budgeting, education, training, and employability skills. The centre offers a kitchen for cookery and barista training; a DIY workshop; a garden for horticulture sessions; a hairdressing and barbering station; an IT suite for job searching, budgeting and computer skills; counselling rooms; and a large, multi-purpose space for arts, crafts and music workshops.

Expanding capacity

Launchpad has a long history of effecting social change in the local community. To ensure it could continue to meet the needs of vulnerable people in Reading, Launchpad identified that additional funding could help expand the existing offering at Launchpad 135.

Sian Walsh is a Launchpad Volunteer and a member of the University’s International Recruitment team. She helped put together a bid for funding of just over £2,500 from the Community Fund, a joint initiative launched last year by the University and the John Sykes Foundation.

The donation provided by the Community Fund has enabled Launchpad to buy vital resources for the centre, such as more chairs and equipment to facilitate larger group sessions. Launchpad has also allocated some of the funding to be used on printers and ink, allowing members to print cover letters and CVs.

A tutor and Launchpad service user looking at a laptopA large portion of the funding will also be used throughout the year to pay specialist tutors to lead regular ‘work ready’ training sessions within the centre. These enable Launchpad service users to learn practical new career skills, such as how to search for jobs effectively, how to apply online and what is expected at interview. Tutors also deliver practical workshops such as cooking and barista courses, and creative workshops to foster greater wellbeing and nurture skills in creative writing, art and photography.

Walsh, who has been volunteering with Launchpad for the last year said: “The extra funding has allowed Launchpad to work with more people. From the simple but effective purchasing of more chairs so that more members can attend training sessions, to covering the costs of the tutors that run those sessions, the Community Fund has enabled Launchpad to expand its offerings to more vulnerable people without jeopardising those existing service users that need it most.

“By expanding our offering, we have empowered more vulnerable people to rebuild; boosting confidence and helping them to lead full independent lives and break the cycle of homelessness.”

Rebuilding lives

Thanks to the support of the Community Fund, Launchpad can help more people like Chris*, who joined the service seeking employment stability and a volunteering role to help him build better relationships in his community.

Chris attended sessions at Launchpad 135 every Wednesday morning and was encouraged to make enquiries with local charity shops for volunteering opportunities. With support from a Launchpad tutor, Chris created a CV and shortly after was offered work with a local warehouse.

Chris said: “Using the skills I learned during the Money Matters sessions at Launchpad 135, I was able to budget and put money aside for rent each week. The agency offered four weeks work but I was still able to stick to my budget. I have now updated my CV to include this work experience and I am working on creating profiles on online job sites and on writing my cover letter. I feel really positive, this is a turning point.”

The crucial support of Launchpad 135 helps people like Chris to overcome the challenges they are facing and to get their lives back on track.

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