How Thames Reach are preventing homelessness in the community this winter

Area manager, Zandi Zungu, talks us through how Thames Reach are actively preventing homelessness in the community this winter

How Thames Reach are preventing homelessness in the community this winter

Thames Reach’s mission is to help homeless, vulnerable people to find decent homes, build supportive relationships and lead fulfilling lives.  The work of our Prevention teams are a key part of our strategy to encourage client independence through the support of rough sleepers, or individuals in temporary accommodation. Area Manager for Prevention, Zandi Zungu, talks us through Thames Reach’s prevention offer, consisting of a wide range of different services which centre around providing skills, employment or accommodation with the aim of preventing homelessness.

Our Peer Landlord scheme will undergo an expansion in Hackney as we will be providing supportive accommodation to individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.  Peer Landlord will be offering accommodation to people who are working, and in a new aspect of the scheme, we will offer rooms to individuals whom have no recourse to public funds.

Within our Greenwich Private Rented Sector (“PRS”) scheme, we have successfully housed 64 individuals in private accommodation over the last year across several London boroughs.  The scheme has a tenancy sustainment rate of 82%.

The Sustaining Tenancies Accommodation & Resettlement Team (“STAR”), works in partnership with Shelter, St. Mungo’s and Stonewall Housing to prevent homelessness across London by supporting people with complex needs to get and keep a home, find employment, build their skills and improve their mental health.  Recently, the STAR team has responded to concentrations of rough sleepers previously inaccessible due to lockdown.  As a result of this work, there has been an increase in the number of service users assisted by the team.

Within the Central European Homeless Assistance Service, (“CEHAS”), we work with rough sleepers within the six North London boroughs to access employment and training including those who might have additional support needs.  A key part of this is helping people regularise their status, particularly where they have a history of working in the UK.  Presently, we have helped 17 clients achieve full settled status, and obtain Universal Credit, thus leading them closer to employment.

Located in Lewisham, Deptford Reach is our day centre within our Prevention offer.  At Deptford Reach, we provide case management, health services, mental health support, and social engagement activities to people who are vulnerably housed.

The Employment & Skills team at Thames Reach provides basic skills, digital skills, work readiness support, job opportunities, and in work-support to individuals who have a history of rough sleeping, or are currently living in hostels.  Throughout the lockdown, the Employment & Skills team has redefined their delivery model to engage with the most socially isolated and vulnerable service users.

Blog: A new normal at Croydon Reach

Support worker George Slater discusses his work at Croydon Reach and how the team have adapted to support people into longer-term accommodation

Blog: A new normal at Croydon Reach

George Slater, support worker at Croydon Reach, tells us all about his service, and his role in helping people rough sleeping across the borough to escape homelessness and then supporting them into new accommodation. George discusses his progression from Thames Reach’s Traineeship programme to a support worker, how the Croydon Reach team have come together to produce fantastic results, and how they feel prepared for future challenges.

I started at Croydon Reach in May last year as a Trainee and have since been given the opportunity to work my way up as an assistant support worker and then support worker.

Croydon Reach is responsible for handling the casework of verified rough sleepers in the local borough; we support our clients from the point of verification and then into temporary accommodation through their local council and back to more long-term independent living. Since becoming a support worker I have taken on the responsibility of overseeing the outreach side of our work and monitoring our rough sleeping population.

It’s been a very interesting year for Croydon Reach. We normally coordinate the Floating Churches Shelter during the winter months but this had to be cut short once lockdown measures were introduced, but all clients were found alternative accommodation that same afternoon! We also suddenly lost access to our daily drop-ins hosted by partner agencies such as Crisis, Salvation Army & Turning Point, as well as the ability to immediately place new rough sleepers into the No Second Night Out and Somewhere Safe To Stay Hubs.

The nature of our workload dramatically changed when the Government introduced the “Everyone In” policy at the end of March. Overnight, we suddenly had all of our rough-sleeping client base in local authority and Greater London Authority (GLA) hotel accommodation, giving us the opportunity to find sustainable, more permanent accommodation options for everyone. On the outreach side of things, we experienced a huge increase in the number of new rough sleeper referrals from Streetlink, and consequently we had a much higher volume of newly verified clients to work with. Thanks to the availability of GLA hotels we were able to accommodate everyone.

Despite the tragic consequences of COVID-19, Croydon Reach have had really positive outcomes in being able to get 90% of our clients immediately into temporary accommodation and placing 80 clients into permanent accommodation, including many of our most entrenched rough sleepers with a history of non-engagement. Although we’ve had to limit the usual face-to-face work that we do, the team has been able to work in the office safely and we’ve had the chance to streamline our workload and become much more efficient. The amount of increased casework we’ve experienced since March has been a positive learning curve for us all and we feel well prepared for the challenges we may face in the near future.

Ricky’s story: “I was moving around when sleeping rough to keep myself safe. You get beaten up”

After being helped off the streets, Ricky quickly received a flat of his own through Croydon Housing First

Ricky’s story: “I was moving around when sleeping rough to keep myself safe. You get beaten up”

Ricky looks around the room, taking it all in. He spreads his arms, displaying his new home: “I’ve got my own house, I’ve got my own kitchen, my own bedroom, my own bathroom, the living room you’re sitting in now.”

He stands up, and walks into the next room where a tent lies folded in the corner. He picks it up. “I slept in this tent every night when I was on the streets. Now, look around, I’ve got a place of my own.”

Ricky spent almost two months sleeping rough after his brother died from an overdose. He’d moved in with him after his relationship had ended and he’d lost his job.

“I found him dead. I was devastated. I was in a terrible place,” he says.

“I was moving around when sleeping rough to keep myself safe. You get beaten up. I’m very vulnerable as a person.” He had been staying in the Croydon area and approached the council but, as he had no local connection, he was unable to get any help.

Thames Reach outreach workers found Ricky bedded down and were able to help him into temporary accommodation. He was also put in touch with health services to get treatment and support for his alcohol use.

At this stage, Ricky expected an extended stay in temporary housing, but he was referred to the new Croydon Housing First team, which aims to get people experiencing homelessness into their own accommodation immediately. This helps people move towards independent living rather than spending long periods in hostels or temporary accommodation. The team also helps with access to services that provide support for health, benefits and training opportunities.

The Housing First team worked with the council, advocated for Ricky, and were able to secure a flat for him.

“I was told that I had a flat viewing, a chance to get my own place,” Ricky says. “I was shocked that I’d got one so quickly. I assumed it would be a private rented flat, I couldn’t believe I was getting it through the council. I wanted it so much that I came to just look at it from the street in the days before the viewing.”

Ricky returns to his seat by the window where the afternoon sun pours in. He’s now been in his flat since February, and is continuing to receive support and access services to help him during his recovery.

“Coming off the streets involved a bit of re-adaptation,” he says. “I’m paying the rent and engaging with the help I’m being offered. Even now, though, I still fear losing my place because when you go from the streets to having to do things like paying bills again it can be difficult, so I’m grateful for the help I get with that. If I want help I will ring up and ask and I know I will always get it.”

Ricky is now starting to think about the future, and wants to start training courses to rebuild his confidence and eventually find work again. “I used to be an English teacher, and I know French. Maybe I could do something with that,” he says.

He looks again around his flat. “I love this place and I’m so grateful for it. I’ve got a nice view out of the window. I’ve got a nice parquet floor. They wanted to rip it up but I said hell no.”