Gabriel’s story

Gabriel became homeless just before the pandemic, but was able to return to work and have a new start with the help of the Lambeth Non-UK Employment Project at Thames Reach

Gabriel’s story

Gabriel* is a Portuguese man living in London, who found himself homeless for the first time in the spring of 2020. He had a history of substance use and when he became homeless, his drug use had increased, due to the additional stress and trauma of his situation.

He had support in place around his drug use, but was struggling to fully engage with this process; overcoming this first barrier was essential in order to begin his journey away from homelessness. A lot of the early support he received was around stabilising his use, which he actively engaged with, and was successful in doing.

Gabriel also had a strong skillset and a long history of employment. The key to supporting him was helping him feel empowered to make steps towards employment and increasing his confidence, which had suffered during his periods of drug use and homelessness.

On a practical level the Lambeth Non-UK Employment Project (LNEP) team created a CV for him, provided transport costs so he could look for work and sent him job opportunities. Gabriel was encouraged to actively participate in the process, and by providing him with the tools he needed, he began taking steps to find employment.

Moving out of London was something Gabriel felt would be beneficial to his recovery. He found a job in Hastings as a cleaner in a supermarket, and needed to start within a few days. This is when support had to be as flexible as possible; the team needed to move quickly to ensure he was able to relocate in time to secure the position.

As soon as he was offered the position the team referred him to the Private Rented Sector (PRS) service within Thames Reach’s Tenancy Sustainment Team (TST), during which time he was secured hotel accommodation in Hastings and relocated immediately, to begin work within a few days. This gave the PRS team enough time to work on securing affordable accommodation locally and begin the resettlement process.

Gabriel is happy in his new job, it is a role that is not too mentally challenging for him; he says it gives him time to work on his recovery and rebuild his confidence. On his time off he is enjoying long sea walks and feels it is the first step towards a new future.

Alex’s story

Having lived in the UK for 35 years, Alex found herself needing support accessing the EU Settlement Scheme

Alex’s story

Alex* has dual nationality, having been born in France but later grew up in Spain. Her parents are Hungarian and Polish respectively. She is 56 years old and has spent the last 35 years living in the UK with a valid permanent residence card, which she got in 2015. These cards are being phased out and will no longer be accepted after 31 December 2020, so she needed to apply for the government’s EU Settlement Scheme.

She lives alone and is a client of Thames Reach’s Tenancy Sustainment Team and regularly uses the services at Brent Reach. She has previously experienced homelessness and slept rough for a short time. In April 2019 Alex had a stroke, which means she currently cannot move or walk easily. Tremors in her arms make it difficult for her to sign or write documents, so it was crucial that the EU Settlement Scheme team at Thames Reach were able to assist with the process of applying to the scheme.

Alex lacks digital skills and does not own electronic devices, other than an old smartphone which she does not like, struggles to use and does not understand. She speaks English but her first language is Spanish, so there are some language barriers in completing the process. With multiple physical and mental health support needs, it was important that she received sufficient support throughout the process. During the initial meeting with the team, she suffered a panic attack, caused in part by the fact that she feels anxious, depressed and unwelcome by Brexit and topics explored in the EU Settlement Scheme.

After the initial struggle with the system, Alex has now successfully applied to the EU Settlement Scheme with the help of Thames Reach. Although she still admits to disliking the scheme, she has a much better understanding of it now and feels great relief that she has been able to complete the process. Her settled status has just been confirmed, and she is now looking to the future.

Our client’s name has been changed for confidentiality

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.”