New hostel and moving-on accommodation in Lambeth

Our new hostels in Lambeth are helping people move on from street homelessness towards independent living. We spoke with Gareth Bowen, lead manager at Acre Lane and Clarence Avenue projects, about how this is working after the ‘Everyone In’ initiative.

New hostel and moving-on accommodation in Lambeth

Can you tell us about the projects you manage?
Clarence Avenue is an eight-bed project, all self-contained studio flats with en-suite bathrooms and kitchens. We are one of the hostels under Lambeth council’s Vulnerable Adults Pathway to help people come off the streets. We work with residents to help them get to where they need to be. When they first arrive, they will be assessed to see how independent they are and what they might need help with.

At Clarence Avenue, staff provide support for a wide range of issues that residents may arrive with, as well as helping with daily tasks such as budgeting and shopping. Once they are ready, residents will be referred to Clearing House, which is a form of social housing on a two year tenancy, and will be assigned a support worker from the TST (Tenancy Sustainment Team), making sure their support needs are covered. In Clarence Avenue there is always a member of staff available at reception to answer any urgent queries and monitor people entering and exiting the building. The clients there make appointments to see their support worker, which helps to prepare them for more independent living and engaging with services in the community.

I also manage Acre Lane, which is Thames Reach’s newest hostel. Between January and March, it was acting as a cold weather shelter. If outreach workers found someone sleeping rough in Lambeth they could bring them here to be accommodated while we found out more about them . The building is currently being refitted and redecorated;. Part of that refit is having one studio downstairs which is more isolated, which is reserved for a vulnerable person who may benefit from living closer to staff areas.

How does the Lambeth Vulnerable Adults Pathway work?
Lambeth council work hard to ensure all people rough sleeping are made an offer of accommodation. Several Thames Reach hostels are commissioned by Lambeth, so Robertson Street, The Waterloo Project, Lambeth High Street, Martha Jones House, and now Acre Lane and Clarence Avenue. The council commission projects such as ours within their Vulnerable Adults Pathway, including supported housing, and people can move between them as required, with the end goal of moving out of supported accommodation and maintaining their own tenancy. Street homelessness is often complex and not straightforward to resolve, so we work with people to address their support needs.

What positive outcomes have you seen so far?
Trying to test people’s abilities to live independently has its challenges but residents having more freedom at Acre Lane has been working well. We run cooking classes once a week on each floor; some of our residents have not had to cook for themselves in a long time, so building up these skills is going to make a huge difference. While we provide support based on their needs, we also need to make sure we’re covering the everyday tasks and skills that residents will need to have in place in order to live well independently, so for example we can go to the shops with them if they need it, as well as signposting to external services, to help them engage more with the wider communities.

When Acre Lane was the cold weather shelter, we housed a lot of people in a very short space of time, which was really impressive.. Once people were housed, we were able to focus  on longer-term solutions, and again this was focused on the support needs of the individual. The team of staff have done really well, and worked so hard to help people move on in difficult circumstances. The project was set up very quickly over the winter months and everyone has had to be very adaptable and flexible, it’s been a strong team effort.