fundraiser Milton Bevan recently went out with Thames Reach’s London Street
Rescue outreach service, working as a volunteer for the night. London Street Rescue staff and volunteers are outevery night of the year, across the
capital helping rough sleepers off the streets and into
“For my volunteer shift, I
was placed in the capable hands of London Street Rescue outreach worker Terri
Filkins. Terri explained how vital volunteers are in enabling London Street
Rescue to function. Terri explained the course of action for the night, which
was to take us across the boroughs of south-east London in search of London’s
“Much of the evening was
taken up looking for new rough sleeper referrals. After the second stop in
search of a new referral, the business analyst part of my brain was asking why
don’t members of the public take pictures of the exact locations of these rough
sleepers, in order that we have a greater chance of meeting and helping them?
“As the evening drew on, I
half expected to have a policeman tap me on the shoulder as we searched under
fly-over and building site; however, on the road police vans on patrol would
flash their headlights in recognition of our Thames Reach branded London Street
“Evening became night and
in no time it was 1:20 am. Terri was keen to make contact with M. We found M
sat amongst her belongings – a dark blue sleeping bag and rucksack. A sickly
metallic chemical smell permeates the air – it comes from the super strength
can of lager that M is periodically swigging from.
“Although I am new in post,
I was made aware during my induction of Thames Reach’s campaign to have these
super brews priced out from the homeless communities reach, but I can smell,
see and hear first-hand how this ‘special brew’ impairs a homeless person’s
ability to make informed choices and take full advantage of an offer of help.
“M explains how she
regularly attends weekly AA meetings, she takes another swig from the can, ‘but
it’s hard you know’. I have a mental image of M sitting in AA still swigging
from the can in her hand.
“M shares a letter from
A&E addressed to her GP, which describes M’s most recent visit to hospital,
her treatments and ends with a recommendation that M reduces her alcohol
intake, another swig. M recounts how after a recent drinking session she awoke
to discover all her valuables had been taken, another swig. I can’t help but
think that the can in M’s hand is robbing her of something far more valuable,
her ability to make considered choices and decisions.
“As we leave M, my mind
goes to the Thames Reach articles that I have read and the statistics to focus
the politicians and brewers minds and their apparent in action on super brews
in a can.
Since that evening, Terri
has said that she is trying to set up a multiple agency professionals meeting
to pool knowledge and resources to try and get M off the streets.
“My first experience as a
street rescue volunteer is over. I am volunteering again next week, if you
haven’t had a chance to volunteer for London Street Rescue, I highly recommend
it. As Terri says: ‘volunteers enable LSR to function, both because of the time
commitment and the different skills and life experiences people working outside
street rescue bring.’
“As a volunteer, what I saw
was that Terri and her Outreach Worker colleagues are making a real difference
every night of the year to the rough sleepers on London’s streets.”
Please help us to help more homeless and vulnerable people to turn their lives around, by making a donation to Thames Reach.