Thames Reach partner with Hackney for unique housing solution

Thames Reach have partnered with Hackney council to provide a new housing solution in order to prevent homelessness in the borough

Thames Reach partner with Hackney for unique housing solution

Thames Reach have set up and started running a new residential project in partnership with Hackney council in order to prevent homelessness in the borough.

The building is managed by Thames Reach and helps residents access the help they need to prevent homelessness and move on with their lives.  This help may be around skills and employment, immigration or getting access to health services. Residents have low support needs, and the scheme is a stepping stone, aiming to accommodate people for around nine months before they move on to independent housing. Residents are referred by Hackney council and the Greenhouse, a day centre that we run in partnership with Hackney council to house people with connections to Hackney.

The detached property had been lying vacant for some time, and has been fitted out to accommodate twelve residents under 35, including two spaces which can be accessed by people who have no recourse to public funds while they resolve their immigration status. In the current group of residents, 60% are in employment, reflecting the reality of homelessness today. Thames Reach’s Employment and Skills team are able to help residents find work where needed, and  also to look for better and more secure employment.

Mathiu, aged 27, is a resident at the Clapton Common project. After a short period of sofa-surfing, he is being accommodated at the project and is looking forward to not only getting his own flat so he can have his children stay, but re-training as a personal trainer. His story is available to read here via the Thames Reach website.

Cllr Sade Etti said: “The Council’s vision is to prevent all forms of homelessnes in the borough. We have committed to providing flexible housing support for people with short- and long-term needs, which enables them to keep safe, to live independently and to maintain good health and wellbeing so that they can access and be a valued part of their local community.

“The majority of people we support who find themselves homeless are from Hackney and are therefore already part of Hackney’s community. Using the building in Clapton means they can access support in a familiar area whilst building skills and resilience, to enable them to move on into settled accommodation.”

Bill Tidnam, Thames Reach chief executive, said: “At Thames Reach, we are proud of our work in collaboration with Hackney council for this unique project. The pandemic has emphasised the need to provide a range of accommodation and support to people experiencing homelessness, and for this to be based on the individual’s needs. Where we can, we work with partners to provide accommodation that can divert people away from the risk or reality of street homelessness and quickly towards work and independence.  This scheme is an example of this preventative approach, and we are pleased to be able to work with the borough to provide housing management and employment support to the people, like Mathiu, who live in the Clapton Common project.”

Resident Mathiu’s story can be read on our website here.


Mathiu’s story

Mathiu is receiving help with training and employment from Thames Reach while staying at our new residential project in Hackney

Mathiu’s story

Mathiu has been staying at the Clapton Common residential property for two months, and is already working with Corinna, the housing manager of Thames Reach’s Peer Landlord Scheme, to get his new flat and secure a successful move-on process. Mathiu had become homeless after a bad relationship breakdown which made him homeless. He then stayed with a friend for a year and a half, but she got into a new relationship, and her boyfriend wasn’t happy with Mathiu staying at the flat, so he had to move on.

Mathiu got in touch with Hackney council, who at the time could not help due to Mathiu’s status as having no recourse to public funds. He only had 30 days left to renew his immigration papers, which Hackney supported him with; they helped him make the new application and he was soon eligible for support. In April this year, the council temporarily accommodated him in a hotel for a week before he spent some time in a shelter in north London. Arrivals to the Clapton Common project are made through referrals by Hackney council.

Mathiu says the differences between living in a shelter and living at the Clapton Common residence are huge, including freedom of having your own space and to cook your own meals. At the shelter, he says, there were up to twelve people sharing one room. “I’ve had help here with employment and getting qualifications. I want to work in the rail industry, so Thames Reach have been really helpful in getting me towards that, such as enrolling me on the PTS course, which is the licence you need to work on the rail.”

“Corinna has also helped me apply for my housing benefit, which I didn’t know how to do. Without her, I don’t think I would have been able to do it myself.” Mathiu has two children so finding the most suitable accommodation has been important in helping resolve his homelessness. He has been getting the support he needs in finding his new home, while living at Clapton Common. He usually has his kids at weekends, and is looking forward to being able to have them round again.

He has been referred to services with migrant and refugee organisation Praxis to help with his immigration status. After being asked to leave his friend’s flat, he was sleeping in his car for over a month, during which time he lost his second job so wasn’t able to pay to renew his papers. Praxis are now in the process of helping him with his immigration status.

“Living here has really motivated me to be myself and to be better. Like I had never thought of being a personal trainer until I got my own space, and now I have people that I train on a weekly basis. Now I’m looking at getting my personal training licence as well as my rail qualification.”

Interview: Supporting homeless people in Hackney at The Greenhouse

Lead manager of The Greenhouse, Qasim Bandali, discusses new remote support for people experiencing homelessness in the borough of Hackney

Interview: Supporting homeless people in Hackney at The Greenhouse

As with all Thames Reach services, The Greenhouse in Hackney has adapted to ensure the best service can be provided to those experiencing homelessness, whilst respecting social distancing. We spoke to The Greenhouse lead manager, Qasim Bandali, who discusses the various needs of new clients in Hackney who are facing homelessness. We talk about how remote working has allowed the service to help more people with a wider range of needs.

Can you tell us about your service and what you do on a daily basis? 

The Greenhouse is a single point of entry for homeless people in the London borough of Hackney. We get referrals from four main routes: self-referrals, those from external organisations such as the Job Centre; prisons and probation services, whereby we arrange to see clients from their day of release, and finally Homerton Hospital discharges, so there is a commitment on both sides to help the service user.

What is the process of helping service users once their referral to you has been successful?

We assess the client within three working days of receiving a referral. Clients will present from one of the pathways I mentioned and then we carry out a triage which usually takes thirty minutes before we book them in for a main assessment. At the moment there is a two-week waiting list for appointments, which we’re looking to reduce but with limited capacity in the building due to health and safety restrictions, this isn’t possible at the moment. Within The Greenhouse we work to HRA [The Homeless Reduction Act] 2018, so if a client is triaged and there is reason to believe that they will be homeless on the day, then we will request temporary or emergency accommodation straight away. We work closely with the temporary accommodation team within Hackney council. We can signpost elsewhere if they are not eligible, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau or Streetlink.

What happens at the appointment?

A housing officer will complete the assessment; if emergency accommodation is required it can be triggered with the council. The housing officer does all the relevant checks, in terms of ID, records, etc., in order to establish the local connection to Hackney. Any clients applying for supported living or hostel placements need to have been connected to Hackney for three years. If the need isn’t housing related, The Greenhouse can still provide assistance if they have had a connection to Hackney for six months of a twelve month period.

What is the client group you work with at The Greenhouse?

Increasingly it is low needs. Historically it has been the case that a lot of people coming through our doors have high or multiple support needs, but really we have an incredibly diverse group of clients. This is due to us being a collaborative project with Hackney council. We are a service for single people experiencing homelessness, so we don’t work with families or people with rent arrears, they would consult Hackney Service Centre, who work to keep clients in their properties.

What particular challenges have you faced in your project since lockdown?

Similar to other projects, we have moved to a completely remote service, with staff working from home and contacting people over the phone. In terms of space we are very small, so we could only meet with two clients at a time due to the size of our premises, but we now know we can offer the service well over the phone and work with more people. However the human face-to-face impact is a big part of what we do, from understanding body language to the personal touch of being in the same room as a client; all of which is very important to both clients and staff. Without these interactions we are unable to have people come to the service with their ID documents, so they are being emailed over instead, which has slowed things down.

Working with people remotely has been a positive learning curve. When things go back to normal, there are still clients we want to work with over the phone. For example people coming to us from the justice system can start working with us weeks before their release date if we have that level of contact.

What part of The Greenhouse’s recent work are you most proud of?

We have been able to house a lot of people in hostels with various needs, such as substance and alcohol dependency, mental and physical health support needs, and a lot of people into the private rented sector. We are learning from the work we’ve done well, and developing this so we can help more people into their own accommodation.

How does The Greenhouse work collaboratively?

Our work wouldn’t be possible without our strong connections in the community and within Thames Reach; internally we work with Hackney SORT, who do outreach working with people who have been rough sleeping in the borough. They often bring them to The Greenhouse to be assessed. We also work with TST (Tenancy Sustainment Teams) for information about tenancies. We have our own liaison officer at Homerton Hospital; he will do triage for any client due to be discharged from the hospital.  Risk assessments and referrals will be done there too.

Looking to the future, what does your project need to continue providing the best support?

As with many other projects similar to ours, more resources would always be good. We are, in due course, looking to recruit volunteers to help with project work. As I said, we have good relationships with external organisations but we can always build on them and make them stronger. This includes drug and alcohol services, mental health agencies, and other various charity organisations in Hackney like the food banks, social services, occupational therapy and housing supply teams.