Monica’s story

Monica is now having her mental and physical health support needs met after the trauma of being evicted and losing her partner

Monica’s story

Monica had been living with her partner, who was terminally ill. He sadly passed away in 2019 and she was made homeless shortly after the funeral, being evicted because her partner was the registered tenant of the property. After this traumatic experience, she was sofa-surfing with different friends as well as having periods of sleeping rough in the local area; she moved around so as not to stay in the same place and become more vulnerable.

She was referred to Deptford Reach by Lewisham council, to offer support with obtaining private rented accommodation. This was made more difficult by the delay in receiving the confirmation of Monica’s leave to remain status, so at this time she had no access to benefits. Monica has difficulty reading and writing, so support was needed to obtain the right paperwork and help Monica through the stressful process.

Signposting to the right healthcare is a significant part of Monica’s recovery journey. She has some ongoing health conditions, with arthritis in her arm and knee causing chronic pain, as well as lower back pain and high blood pressure. “Deptford Reach saved my life,” Monica says, “they are good people, and they do a lot for people.” She was offered counselling to help her with the trauma that came from being evicted and sleeping rough, and has since been referred to her GP for longer-term support with this. While she awaited news from the Home Office regarding her leave to remain application, she started part-time work, before being put on furlough when the pandemic hit. Her immigration status was confirmed at the start of 2021, and she is now eligible for some benefits.

As she approaches retirement age, Monica finally feels that she can enjoy other activities, as well as learn new skills, now that her settled status is finalised. The support she gets from Deptford Reach is part of the floating support service, which means her support worker will visit her at home to address her needs, which are mostly around sustaining her accommodation. Monica is now looking to take an ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) course to help with her language skills and gain more confidence. She can now look to the future as she is finally comfortable with the setup of her own accommodation, and the ongoing support that she has for her mental and physical health.

Interview: How Deptford Reach is supporting the Lewisham community

Lead manager of Deptford Reach, Jordan, discusses the service’s impact towards ending street homelessness in Lewisham

Interview: How Deptford Reach is supporting the Lewisham community

Deptford Reach has been at the heart of the community in Lewisham for many years. During the early stages of the pandemic, the building had to close, but instead of ceasing services, this became an opportunity to expand beyond the building the team are ordinarily based in, to reach more people in need around the borough. Its lead manager, Jordan, discusses the essential work they do in the community.

In Deptford Reach’s current working model, how are you working with people who have been using your service for a while, and members of the wider community?  

At present we have three main areas we focus on: a rough sleepers support hub; advice and case work, and health and wellbeing. The Deptford Reach building provides space and respite for people experiencing homelessness, and there they can access advice and facilities such as showers and laundry. The health part is really important, and once a week we have visits from a dentist, nurse, GP and drug and alcohol support workers. We also help people get access to their own GP practice to help people resettle into their community.

Can you tell us about the prevention aspect of Deptford Reach and how this works?

Prevention is important, and we are always looking for new ways to get to people before homelessness occurs. As part of the advice service, we offer advice and casework in, benefits, debt, arrears, housing advice, tenancy sustainment, homelessness and other general advice. Monday to Friday we are in the building, and members of our team attend food banks across Lewisham as well. From the new year, the centre will be shut on Fridays, with staff based in the women’s sanctuary at the local 999 Club and food banks. We attend a different food bank every day of the week to provide a drop-in advice service. Expanding this service means we can engage with people who would otherwise not come to a building-based service; it definitely makes it more accessible.

Does the service change at all in winter and cold weather?

Our rough sleepers support hub is usually extended for a few more hours to make sure people have the support they need and don’t go into freezing temperatures early in the morning. There is always a bigger demand in winter with added urgency to be accommodated and higher engagement levels. As for this year, the new variant has meant that more people who had been sofa-surfing are coming to us needing advice and emergency accommodation.

As you work with people at different stages of exposure to homelessness (prevention, intervention, recovery), do you find that you are using the Hard to Reach Fund to support people’s move-on journey?

We often have a need for it, widely for people resettling and allowing people to engage, with both us and other networks in their lives. So housing items and furniture, or everyday items such as Oyster cards, phones and credit.

Looking towards 2022, what does the future hold for your work?

We are working with Thames Reach’s Employment and Skills team to offer help accessing education and employment; financial resilience; digital skills, and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) to people who use our services, whether in the building or in our outreach work. When we work outside of the Deptford Reach base, the community does not lose out on services, and we are expanding our reach of people needing our help. We have a women’s group and an art group at the moment but we’re minimising activities in the building, so we have more scope to reach people elsewhere in the community in different locations. As we’re focused on prevention and sustainment, everything will be based around advice, so we can support people towards independency as much as possible in the long-term. At the moment we are collecting data to see where the needs are in the local community.

Chris’ story

After a period of street homelessness, Chris is rebuilding his life in different ways, including using his new-found confidence to volunteer

Chris’ story

Chris has been volunteering with Deptford Reach since it re-opened after lockdown, with a new purpose of supporting more people in an outreach capacity. Chris started volunteering after being recommended to Thames Reach’s TRaVEL (Thames Reach Volunteering and Employment for Life) programme, which helps people improve their confidence and interpersonal skills before entering volunteering or the workplace. He has been volunteering for just over two months, and has a front-of-house role on reception, meeting and greeting visitors to the building and helping with tasks such as ensuring people get to their doctor’s appointment. He finds the experience rewarding and a good way of being able to use the skills he had worked on during the TRaVEL programme.

“I found out about TRaVEL through my support worker, and the project first introduced me to Thames Reach’s work. I’ve been able to improve my communication skills, my confidence and my self-esteem, which I’ll need for heading into work.Chris is currently happy volunteering and working on his self-esteem and rebuilding his life after a period of street homelessness, and keen to give back to the sector that has helped him. “I like being able to give back to the service. Because of my past, when people come into the building, I can see potential in them. Maybe if they see me they might be inspired to improve their situation. I feel like I am in a position to inspire them, even in a subtle way.” When Chris is ready to get back into work, he is keen to work in the fields of homelessness, mental health or recovery, using his lived experience to help others.  He will be able to access the Thames Reach Information Advice and Guidance (IAG) service for support with job applications.

The recovery journey Chris is going through began from being street homeless for a year, before residing in a hostel for another year after his time sleeping rough, then rehab for seven months. He is now determined to focus on his recovery and improving his wellbeing, he says, to never go back to the way he was. He wants to use his lived experience to eventually find a job where he can help and influence people and be paid for it. Reflecting on how far he has come, Chris says “helping other people is part of my recovery”.

Chris is now enjoying taking up new hobbies which help him feel happy in himself. He is undergoing training in beekeeping locally in London, and enjoys being outdoors as much as possible. He also speaks enthusiastically about a project he is part of with St Mungo’s called Paws for Pause, which provides training for working with dogs and understanding their behaviours, aimed at people who have had mental health support needs. “It’s good for my wellbeing, I really enjoy it, plus it’s the opportunity to pick up some new skills. My life has changed big time and I’m very grateful for that.”

For volunteering opportunities, please email volunteers@thamesreach.org.uk. 

Deptford Reach hosts health and wellbeing day

On 12 August, Deptford Reach hosted a supportive health and wellbeing day for users of Thames Reach services

Deptford Reach hosts health and wellbeing day

On 12 August, in partnership with Lewisham council, Deptford Reach hosted a health and wellbeing day for members of the community and users of Thames Reach services. The invite was extended throughout the organisation as part of our ongoing commitment to bridging the inequality gap created by street homelessness.

While Deptford Reach is known to be a day centre hosting various activities for its visitors, since the pandemic the team have been extending their reach to ensure those in the wider community know about their resources and means of support. This has included outreach at Lewisham food banks.

The day involved drop-in services including COVID vaccinations, nurse appointments for general health checks, CGL (drug and alcohol support); Hep C, Hep B, HIV and syphilis testing with results given on the day; STI testing; advice and demonstrations for lateral flow testing, including handing out test kits on outreach; and information and advice on infection control.

It was a successful and positive event, ensuring people felt welcome and safe in Deptford Reach’s building, at the heart of the community. There will be more similar events in the future as part of the service’s focus on more outreach work. In the meantime the team facilitate regular GP and nurse appointments in the building, as well as supporting people to register with GPs in the community.

Sive O’Regan, inclusion health clinicial nurse specialist, said: “Really happy with today’s turn out for our point-of-care blood borne virus testing at Deptford Reach. A really well organised health promotion event that we thoroughly enjoyed being a part of and look forward to the next.”

Jordan McTigue, lead manager at Deptford Reach, said: “It can be difficult for people with experience of street homelessness, as well as those at risk of street homelessness, to access health services, so this is such an important day to get people engaged and get them vaccinated and protected against COVID-19, as well as providing resources and information to prevent ill health where possible.”

 

Deptford Reach re-opens with new schedule and services

Deptford Reach re-opens this week with an adapted schedule, with activities and takeaway food once again available to those experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Deptford Reach re-opens with new schedule and services

Since the beginning of the pandemic, many of Thames Reach’s services have had to change the way they work to ensure the safety of communities, the people we work with and staff alike. For Deptford Reach, based in the heart of the community in south London, this meant a reduced face-to-face services while ensuring no one was left behind in these difficult times. Its day centre functionality was postponed, as the conventional use of the space with many people sharing a confined space was not suitable in pandemic times. Staff worked with those most at need, but as of this week (W/C Monday 12 April) the building is opening up again, with selected services running, including:

A rough sleeping support hub, which will take place in the mornings, providing advice, breakfast, showers, clothing and laundry facilities to anyone experiencing street homelessness. This will run Monday to Friday.

Prevention and sustainment service will run alongside this, on an appointment basis.  This will provide support to anyone at risk of homelessness, and people needing support sustaining their accommodation.

From 17th May onwards, activities will take place on site in two-hour slots during the day. These will take the same format as the day centre as it existed prior to lockdown, with sessions including digital skills, women’s services and art.

Alongside this our kitchen will open again with takeaway food available in line with government guidelines, meaning that food will have to be taken outside of the building, at least for the time being.

A dentist, GP and nurse will be on site on set days of the week. At Thames Reach our aim is to ensure that everyone we work with is registered with their own GP, and can access the health services they need.  However these services are not always as accessible as they should be to people who are homeless and in housing need, and by using Deptford Reach as a point of access, this can make a real difference for some of the people who use our service.

Another new element of the Deptford Reach team’s work will be “outreach” sessions. This differs from the ‘traditional’ street outreach work with people sleeping rough, but allows the team to seek out people in housing need and intervene to prevent homelessness.  It will involve support workers being present at food banks across the borough of Lewisham to provide the same prevention and sustainment service outlined above.

Deptford Reach are looking for volunteers to help deliver their new services, particularly support for the rough sleeping hub and volunteers with specialised skills, to run activities for the Deptford Reach community, such as art, meditation, yoga. To discuss this further, email volunteers@thamesreach.org.uk or visit our Volunteer page to apply. 

 

 

Marvin’s story

Having been employed for a long time in the music and film industries, Marvin found himself on hard times before being helped back on his feet by staff at Deptford Reach

Marvin’s story

Marvin is a service user at Deptford Reach. He sits down in Deptford Reach’s art room with a wide smile on his face; he is preparing to start his first full-time job in years after struggling to get past interview stages. While he is optimistic now, things started to change for Marvin in 2012, after his work situation changed. He had worked in facilities, audiovisuals and staging for film, music, theatre and television. He talks about the precarious nature of the work, it was always feast or famine, and these were the days before zero hour contracts. He looks back at these years fondly, having toured with the likes of Peter Gabriel and Depeche Mode, and worked for huge directors including Ridley Scott.

But the work wasn’t consistent and in 2012 he was signing on at the job centre; because he didn’t have a fixed address and his post was being delivered to his brother’s house, he wasn’t aware that he was being sanctioned by the job centre. It was over Christmas that year that he found he had no money, and he would walk miles between his support networks and the job centre to sort his benefits as he couldn’t afford public transport. He was staying in a hostel nearby in south London when someone told him about Deptford Reach; he describes the project as a bit of a life-saver for people with mixed needs, and was grateful for the food and social opportunities. He has been a regular visitor at the day centre since.

Marvin has a strong work ethic and loves keeping busy, which was why struggling to work was so frustrating for him. He took up volunteering at Deptford Reach, mostly working in the kitchen with basic cooking and cleaning tasks, and was offered a place on a Food Hygiene course as an added extra for his CV. He is currently living nearby in accommodation, which was found for him by a support worker at Deptford Reach. Marvin is taking the future one step at a time, beginning with looking forward to starting his new job as a Facilities Engineer in the theatre industry.