Ending rough sleeping in London

What Thames Reach is doing to help end rough sleeping

Ending rough sleeping in London

Last year, 11,018 people slept rough on the streets of London. Shockingly, the numbers are on the rise with a staggering 250% increase in rough sleeping in the past decade.  

Sleeping rough is a demeaning, damaging and often dangerous experience. In fact, it’s so harmful that a person who sleeps rough has an average age at death of just 44 years. 

The challenges of outreach

Most people would assume that if you were homeless and had a chance to leave behind life on the streets, you would jump at it. But homelessness is a complex issue. Many people find it hard to trust others as they’ve been let down by family, friends or institutions. Many have endured physical or mental abuse, making it even harder to accept help. Our outreach teams understand these challenges, and the importance of building trusting relationships before an individual feels able to accept support.  

What Thames Reach is doing to help end rough sleeping

Our outreach teams are on the frontlines, working tirelessly across London 365 days a year. We comb the city, searching for people as they are bedding down on the streets at night and waking up early in the morning. It is our aim to bring people inside, to a place of safety. 

Last year we helped 1,240 people get off the streets of London and helped begin this journey for many more. 

How you can help

The more hours we are out on the streets, the more people we see, the more lives we save. Please donate whatever you can and help us end rough sleeping in London.

Donate now

What do outreach workers do?

Our outreach workers help people who are homeless to get off the streets

What do outreach workers do?

Our outreach workers help people who are homeless to get off the streets. They are out every night of the year, helping people find accommodation, access healthcare, and other services they might need, such as benefit advice. 

Getting a roof over someone’s head is just the first step

Homelessness is a systemic and political failure. We find people who have fallen out of a broken system and we’re trying to put them back in. 

Once a person becomes homeless, they can become trapped and it’s difficult to escape as they need support to help navigate the system. 

At Thames Reach, we focus on the person as an individual – not just a sleeping bag in a doorway. Getting a roof over someone’s head is just the first step; our job is to help people feel human again and get them back into the system. In order to do that, we have to build trust with an individual and that can take time. 

Our support is tailored to the individual. For one person that might mean helping them fill in forms, for another it might mean going with them to an appointment. 

Giving hope and a roadmap to a way out

As well as practical advice and support, we give hope to the people we support. Many people who have been homeless feel hopeless. Our job is to give them a credible roadmap to feeling hopeful again. Something as simple as taking someone to have a haircut can help make them feel human again, and hopeful that their situation can improve.  

We never give up

Once we have made contact with an individual, we stay in touch with them until they are no longer rough sleeping. We often get told about people sleeping rough in certain locations, as if no one knows about them or is doing anything, but we do know nearly all of these people and are doing something about it. Not everyone feels ready to stop rough sleeping. It takes time for them to build trust with us, especially if they’ve been failed by systems or institutions in the past. 

Volunteer for us

Our volunteers work alongside our outreach workers to help find and engage people sleeping rough. If you are interested in volunteering for us and can commit to at least one night a month, then get in touch for more information.

Find out more about volunteering


Severe Weather Emergency Protocol Update

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has activated the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) for the first time this winter

Severe Weather Emergency Protocol Update

This week, 27 November – 1 December, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan activated the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) for the first time this winter, instructing councils across the capital to provide extra shelter for people sleeping rough. This decision comes as temperatures dropped below zero degrees, posing increased risks to those sleeping rough on the streets.

In response, our outreach teams have been actively working to ensure that everyone has a place to stay away from the freezing temperatures. 

“We encourage members of the public to make referrals of anyone they see sleeping rough to Streetlink, who contact our outreach teams directly and quickly. During SWEP we put out additional outreach shifts, so that anticipated increased demand can be met.”  

– Thames Reach Director of Services

As we navigate through the winter, we will continue to find the fastest routes away from the streets for the people we support, prioritising safety during extreme weather conditions. 

It is important to recognise that, while SWEP provides a vital immediate response to help those sleeping rough, it does not address the root causes of rough sleeping. A more comprehensive approach is required, involving tailored support and assistance to address the complex issues individuals sleeping on the street face. 

Learn more about the projects and services run by Thames Reach helping to end rough sleeping in London: https://thamesreach.org.uk/what-we-do/