Will’s story

Receiving tailored support for his mental health has given Will the confidence to explore his hobbies and interests again

Will’s story

Will has been receiving mental health and tenancy sustainment support from Thames Reach through our partnership with the Lambeth Living Well Network Alliance. He is now looking at life beyond his diagnosis and is enjoying his hobbies and interests again, which include dancing and record collecting.

Will is in his mid-fifties.  He has a complex mental health diagnosis, for which he needs a high level of support. When he first received support from the Lambeth Living Well Network Alliance, he was living in his own self-contained flat. He has found it difficult to manage a tenancy, so the team established that the type of accommodation he was in was not suitable for him. For Will, the stress of maintaining a tenancy had been one of the primary triggers leading to relapsing in his mental health, so this was taken into consideration when assessing his support needs.

An acceptance of his diagnosis and need for medication to help him manage his condition was achieved sensitively and through one-to-one conversations, so he could ensure that moving forward, this was in his best interest. When he was discharged from his last hospital admission, the Home Treatment Team (HTT ) visited regularly to support him in taking his medication, but he is now able to self-medicate independently.

His support workers have played a key role in helping Will manage his tenancy and thus reduce his stress levels. He also finds it hard to maintain his flat, so has a cleaner who visits once a week.

He needs support with tasks around computer literacy, processing information and liaising with services, as this is another source of stress for him, so his support workers have been advocating for him with various services. For instance, they have supported him when making phone calls to utility companies or to his landlord to report repairs, and then breaking information down for him. This has been achieved by building up a relationship of trust between Will and his support workers, through regular meetings and a consistent and empathetic approach, so that he feels comfortable asking for their support.

Aside from his health and tenancy needs, Will has also required support with financial management. The team have helped him set up affordable repayment agreements, minimising his debt by helping him claim discounts that are offered to people needing extra support. He has been assisted in claiming benefits and opening a bank account.

Will is a keen collector of records and other pop music memorabilia, and often explores charity shops in different parts of London looking for collectable items. He also enjoys his garden and often buys flowers and plants. He loves to discuss these subjects when support workers visit, and these conversations put him in a relaxed state of mind. Having a positive interest that he can pursue has greatly assisted his recovery.

Five years has now passed since Will’s last hospital admission. He has a sense of fulfilment and feels he has a strong network in the community to support him. He has just completed a course in IT through Thames Reach’s Employment and Skills team and is now able to use a smartphone and access the internet. Now, he is planning for the future and is being supported in exploring further groups and courses. As well as taking part in gardening groups, he hopes to begin dance classes, an activity that he enjoyed in the past and hopes to incorporate into his recovery journey.

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.

Chloe’s story

Chloe is on a positive personal journey towards recovery after a traumatic experience which included street homelessness. Now, with support from Greenwich Navigators, she is optimistic about the future.

Chloe’s story

Chloe’s journey towards recovery is about much more than resolving her homelessness. Five years ago, she was in a relationship which began to go wrong when her partner was taking all her money to buy drugs. One day, after being surrounded by them for some time, she tried what her partner had been buying, and found herself facing addiction within a toxic relationship environment, which included domestic violence. This escalated to a situation whereby Chloe lost her one-bedroom flat as she couldn’t keep up with rent; she also didn’t want to go back to the flat, as it was the address her partner knew, and she was trying to escape him.

This left Chloe between sofa-surfing and sleeping rough during the early stages of the pandemic, until she realised she needed help, so approached Greenwich council. “I’m very stubborn, I won’t go asking for help until I really have to. I hid my situation from my family for a long time.” That was when she was allocated Francis, who works for Thames Reach’s Greenwich Navigators team, as her support worker.

Chloe speaks about the support she has been getting from Francis, who has been working with her for the past eight months. “He’s been great. Without him I’d be nowhere.”  She says that she is able to ask for support with different things as she navigates her recovery, whether that is signposting for housing, food banks or any other issue she has questions about.

She is now in supported housing, sharing with three women in a house that she clearly loves; she remarks how clean and suitable it is for her as she is on a good trajectory away from drugs and homelessness, as well as receiving the right help for her mental health. Chloe says that she wants to sort out all her different issues, but she knows that it can only be done one step at a time, and being in stable accommodation is the foundation she needs.

Chloe is looking forward to doing things that help her mental health, as she currently avoids groups due to her past. She likes the idea of cooking classes, and has a talent for hair. She does the hair of the women she shares accommodation with, and in the future will look to getting qualified and pursuing it as a career.

“I’m not waking up every morning and thinking of drink; if there weren’t hope with Thames Reach, with Francis, and the way he speaks with me and listens to me, I would have just left it, and I would have suffered. I would probably still be out there now.

“Sometimes I wake up happy, other days I wake up sad and I don’t know why, but it happens to everyone. Like yesterday, I woke up sad, but I looked around and thought, ‘I’m here now’, and trust me, I’m not going back.”

Michelle’s story

Michelle is excited to kick-start her career in hairdressing now that she has received support after a traumatic period of homelessness.

Michelle’s story

Michelle is 59 years old, and has been visiting Deptford Reach and using its services since 2012. Ten years ago, she was staying with a friend at their flat, but was evicted and made homeless when the friend passed away. Losing her friend and becoming homeless at the same time was an incredibly traumatic experience for Michelle. This trauma is something she still receives support for, thanks to staff at Deptford Reach and neighbouring partner organisation the 999 Club; she says, “it has been so important to get that level of support.”

Helping her through this difficult time as she recovered from street homelessness, Deptford Reach supported Michelle to apply and enrol into college. She is currently studying hairdressing level 3, having completed level 1 and 2, and is preparing for an interview at an academy to study level 3 barbering. She is passionate about hairdressing, and it is something she is very skilled in.

“I’ve been through a lot of trauma and having Deptford Reach there has been really good; they supported me to access counselling, and they’ve supported me into wellbeing groups such as yoga and women’s group. It’s important to have access to these things when you’re going through trauma. Deptford Reach is important to have in this area, there are so many people here, a real range of ages, young and old.”

At the women’s group at Deptford, she recently did a presentation on hairdressing to help improve her confidence in a supportive environment. The space offers advice and guidance and can signpost to education courses. “If you’re worried about something, they can show you where to go to speak with a nurse, see a dentist or get food vouchers.” This was helpful when Michelle’s benefits were sanctioned, however Deptford Reach helped reinstate her benefits and register with a GP practice.

Michelle is now in a shared flat due to support from Deptford Reach; she likes the close transport links and says that it is good to have a base close to local amenities and within the community; she can get to Deptford Reach, college and her place of work easily. She says that if there is an issue with her housing, she can get in touch with the team at Deptford Reach.  This was the case when she had an issue with a tenant in a previous accommodation; Deptford Reach contacted and mediated with the landlord, who agreed to move Michelle into another accommodation where she felt safe. They have been continuing to provide support with her tenancy, until she feels confident to manage by herself.

Michelle is currently waiting to hear back after a recent interview for a part-time hairdressing role, and is looking forward to a bright future in a career she enjoys.

Sebastian’s story

Sebastian is on his recovery journey away from street homelessness, and is currently a resident in our Peer Landlord project in Hackney. Now he has gained settled status, he is looking forward to entering the world of work again

Sebastian’s story

Sebastian is currently a resident at Thames Reach’s Peer Landlord housing project in Clapton Common, in partnership with Hackney council. He has been staying there for three months, and as a short-term accommodation solution, Sebastian is utilising the project as a stepping-stone before moving into his own flat. He is already making plans for moving on, to become more independent.

Sebastian started sleeping rough in January 2021, after injuring his ankle in December 2020 and being unable to work in his construction job. After losing his job, he was unable to pay his rent, and so was made homeless. During his time on the streets, he was sleeping in a car park in Stamford Hill with some other people; an outreach worker in the Hackney SORT (Street Outreach Team) came to talk to them and offer support, initially resulting in a room in a local hotel.

After this initial placement, Sebastian was then supported and moved to a hotel in Dalston, followed by a move into a hotel at Finsbury Park, where he was supported by Single Homeless Project, allowing him to then move into Thames Reach’s Peer Landlord project.

Obtaining settled status has been a huge factor in helping Sebastian out of homelessness. His status was confirmed two months ago, after a long delay due to a backlog from the pandemic. “When I was waiting for the results, I was really worried,” he says, “I have no family left in Poland, so if I was deported, I would have no one and nothing there for me. I’ve been living in the UK for eighteen years.”

Now that he has gained settled status, he is looking forward to moving on. The first thing he wants to do is get back into work, in the maintenance and construction industries, as he has plenty of experience, skills and qualifications to do so. He says he used to work on high-profile projects, and is looking forward to doing the same again, now that his injury has healed. Sebastian says again how helpful Corinna has been, both in terms of helping him with his paperwork and recovery journey, but also as a friendly face in the project. “Every time I see her around the house, we have a little chat about how I’m doing and what I’m doing,” and says that the support has helped him gain confidence for the next chapter of his life. 

Kathleen’s story

After experiencing street homelessness, Kathleen is able to manage her illness and sleep better in the safety of her own home thanks to support from the Hard to Reach Fund

Kathleen’s story

Kathleen found herself experiencing financial difficulties in a challenging time in her life, after a relationship breakdown and cancer diagnosis, before finding herself street homeless in late 2019. She was supported by a street outreach team after being homeless for three months, being placed into temporary accommodation in March 2020 before finally settling in private rented accommodation in June the same year.

Once she had moved into her new accommodation, Kathleen was facing several barriers to her recovery from homelessness, including grieving the loss of both her parents and sister within a twelve-month period. She was also trying to come to terms with traumatic experiences of her time sleeping rough, and was still recovering from her cancer diagnosis.

A few months into 2021, Kathleen told her support worker that she ready to start dealing with her grief by engaging with a counselling service. A referral was made through Thames Reach’s Hard to Reach Fund and after being placed on a waiting list, Kathleen was contacted and an assessment was completed in September 2021. She was happy to engage with the service due to the 1-to-1 approach, as opposed to the group options that had been offered through the NHS.

Soon after this, Kathleen was experiencing severe pain in different parts of her body; after seeking medical attention, she was diagnosed with a new stage-4 cancer diagnosis, and after returning from hospital she would experience sleepless nights with the relentless pain. Again, her support worker was able to access the Hard to Reach Fund to purchase a mattress topper to support her body as much as possible. Kathleen was greatly relieved and was able to get a good night’s sleep and rest as a result; she was so pleased, in fact, that she lovingly nicknamed the topper Eddie.

Most recently, Kathleen’s mobile phone stopped working properly. This left her without access to the internet and unable to make outgoing calls. Due to her medical condition, she was made vulnerable by not being able to contact her support worker, hospital transport, care worker or nurse. After learning about this issue, it was decided that Thames Reach’s Hard to Reach Fund would be used to purchase a basic smartphone. Doing so enabled Kathleen to access her benefits journal and have access to her support network, allowing her to retain some form of independence and security.

Kathleen regularly expresses how grateful she is for the mattress topper, mobile phone and the support accessing counselling; they are purchases that are small in isolation but have made a huge difference in improving Kathleen’s quality of life and aiding her recovery from street homelessness. She has told her support worker that being able to sleep properly has had a positive impact on her mental wellbeing, allowing her to better face the challenges she is going through.

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. 

 

 

Just Eat campaign feeds almost 2,000 people experiencing isolation and poor health

The campaign run by Just Eat which launched in December 2020 has helped Thames Reach provide tasty and nutritious meals to almost 2,000 people experiencing social isolation and poor health

Just Eat campaign feeds almost 2,000 people experiencing isolation and poor health

Prior to Christmas 2020. Just Eat, the well-known food outlet, in association with Social Bite, the organisation behind the Worlds Big Sleep Out in 2019, ran a fundraising campaign raising money to alleviate the growing problem of food poverty.

When ordering their takeaway, Just Eat customers were invited to donate a small sum on top of their order total to raise money to buy 200,000 Christmas meals for people in need across the UK. Thames Reach was one of fifteen charities selected to distribute the funds raised.

The campaign and the money raised exceeded expectations, and the charities quickly hit their target for the number of meals provided. With the help of some fantastic volunteers, Thames Reach staff across the organisation distributed 500 meals to people living alone and in food poverty over the Christmas period. This was particularly important this year, with the cancellation of  festive meals and services, which are so important for people who live alone and in poverty.

But this is not the end of the story. Because the fundraising campaign was so successful, we have continued to provide meals and groceries to vulnerable and isolated people through January, February and March. In fact, we have distributed an additional 1300 meals to people in need. This couldn’t have been more timely, with the pandemic seriously affecting those who needed to self-isolate, but who didn’t have the kind of family support so many of us can rely on.

We want to say a big thank you to Just Eat and its customers, Social Bite and our partners, particularly The Good Eating Company, which provided really high-quality ready meals, and a huge thank you to our fantastic volunteers. They distributed the meals and offered a little Christmas cheer and a warm smile to everyone they met.

Thames Reach’s response to latest rough sleeping count

Bill Tidnam, Thames Reach chief executive, responds to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Governments (MHCLG) street count figures, stating that while the decrease in numbers of people rough sleeping is hopeful, we must not lose sight of the importance of prevention services

Thames Reach’s response to latest rough sleeping count

“The national snapshot rough sleeping street count figures collected by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) at the end of November 2020 show a significant reduction in rough sleeping compared to the same period in 2019.  These figures need to be treated with some caution: they are a snapshot of one night, and some areas undertake an estimate rather than counting.  That being said, the more accurate CHAIN database from the Greater London Authority (GLA) records people seen sleeping rough by outreach workers in London, also shows a reduction in Quarter 3 (October to December) against the same period in 2019.

“This follows an large increase in rough sleeping in April and May during the first lockdown, when many people who were precariously housed lost accommodation and came onto the streets for the first time.  Many of these people were helped by the ‘Everyone In’ response, which provided temporary accommodation, with many of these people now moved into long-term housing.

“People sleeping rough are not a static population.  Of the 3307 people seen sleeping rough in London between October and December 2020, 1582 were new to the street, and 1166 spent only one night on the street.  Rough sleeping is damaging and dangerous.  Investment by government in services to help people who are on the streets is welcome and is having an impact.  However if we are really serious about tackling rough sleeping we need to get to people before they end up on the streets, and prevent this happening.  The majority of people sleeping rough have significant support needs around their mental health or substance misuse (or a combination of these), and their homelessness represents a breakdown of the networks that should provide support, rather than a ‘simple’ housing crisis.   Work to build and reinforce these networks before people ended up on the streets was a major, albeit unsung, part of the effective response to rough sleeping in the early part of this century, but in the last ten years, local government funding cuts have meant that much of this work no longer happens.

“Around 50% of people sleeping rough on London’s streets are non-UK nationals, and the often punitive legal response to this group, means that it is often difficult for charities like Thames Reach to give them the help they need to get and stay off the streets.  There has been progress in this area with a greater flexibility around exclusion and help to find work, but the figures remain consistently high.  Putting needs rather than nationality first is crucial if we are to begin to make a difference for all people experiencing street homelessness.”