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.

How you can help homeless and vulnerable people this Christmas

Donate to our Big Give Christmas Challenge today

How you can help homeless and vulnerable people this Christmas

If you have enjoyed the Banquet, Mark Holford, the WCIT Deputy Master, asks you to give generously to the Thames Reach Hard to Reach Fund, which will provide vital support to the people we work with this Christmas.

Clicking the Donate button below will take you to our Big Give page  where every pound you give will be doubled. We have a target of £11,250 which will be doubled to £22,500 (as of Friday we have raised £5,000). We expect this to help 100 to 150 people. This donation page will remain open until Tuesday.

Donate

 

Here are some examples of the good your donation will do:

£350 – Could furnish a flat for somebody moving into their own place for the first time in many years

£100 – Could buy someone a bike to cycle to a new job

£40 – Could buy a smart phone for someone, helping them to stay in touch with loved ones and access support, a crucial lifeline during the pandemic

£15 – Could cover the travel costs of someone accessing emergency accommodation

Donate today and help provide vital support to the people we work with this Christmas.

Thanks so much for your support.

Happy Christmas from Thames Reach.

Ivo, from South London, pictured above, is just one of the people who’s been helped by the Hard to Reach Fund, to read about how we helped him recover from long term mental health difficulties, click here.

Ivo’s story

Since moving into his own flat, Ivo has seen a huge improvement in his mental health, taking real steps forward on his path to recovery.

Ivo’s story

Since moving into his own flat, Ivo has seen a huge improvement in his mental health, taking real steps forward on his path to recovery.

He first moved into his new flat in January through Brokerage and Resettlement in Lambeth (BRiL), a collaborative project between Lambeth council and Thames Reach, which aims to provide people living in supported or residential accommodation with a flat of their own.

People who have struggled with long-term mental health problems can sometimes end up staying in residential homes or supported housing longer than they need to, often because there are no suitable alternatives. BRiL is addressing this by purchasing properties on the open market and then letting them to formerly homeless people at an affordable rate.

Ivo, originally from Brazil, has lived in the UK for 35 years, and worked at the Savoy Hotel for 20 years, eventually becoming head butler. Around 2011, he began to struggle with his mental health. He eventually became very ill and had to move into supported accommodation. He spent a number of years receiving support and treatment, which, over time, gradually lead to an improve­ment in his mental health; however, he reached a point where this environment began to hold him back and prevent him from making a full recovery.

‘I’ve always lived by myself before, so I started to find it difficult having so many strangers around me all the time, people checking up on me, having no independence, it felt very constricting and I felt like I wasn’t able to get better,’ Ivo says.

BRiL were able to help Ivo make those final steps in an environment better suited to him, moving him in to his new flat, which is his indefinitely, and helping to furnish it. A support worker also initially helped Ivo with his meals, setting up an internet connection, and organising bills.

‘I really like it here, I like the flat, the location is perfect for me, I can walk everywhere I need to go, I’ve lived in Streatham for years before so know the area. Every day, I exercise by walking to Brixton and back, which is really helping me.’

Ivo is also currently volunteering two days a week at a local charity shop, and has enrolled on a volunteer peer mentorship course in order to help others who are in a similar situation to where he used to be. He also spends a lot of time reading, particularly biographies.

‘I’m feeling really well now, 50% better. Living with strangers was difficult on top of feeling unwell at the time. I need space and quiet in order to feel mentally well and this flat has really helped me with that so much.’

To find out more about the support Ivo received when settling into his new home, read about our Big Give Christmas Challenge.

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.

 

Area manager Sandra on Thames Reach’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group

Thames Reach’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group is an integral part of Thames Reach’s ongoing commitment to these values. Its convenor and area manager Sandra Barrett discusses her career progression and details how the group functions.

Area manager Sandra on Thames Reach’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group

Can you tell us a bit about your role and time at Thames Reach?

I joined Thames Reach as project worker, over 25 years ago, at the service now known as the Bermondsey Project. From there I worked in a range of roles across the organisation, including project leader before becoming an area manager in 2011. Since that time I have overseen a wide range of services, and currently I am responsible for Supported Housing. I am also the convenor for the organisation’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) group.

How does the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group work?

The group meets quarterly, and now via Zoom. The forum is a place to share good practice and some of the challenges faced by our service users and staff in these areas. It can also highlight issues that are taken up and addressed at a higher level.  An example of operational change implemented was the use of Language Line. This came about as a result of feedback to the forum that the database of languages spoken by Thames Reach staff wasn’t as effective as it could be. Now with the introduction of Language Line, translation is available to all staff when needed. Feedback to the group has also informed our campaigning, such as highlighting the problems faced by EU nationals which brought about greater access to services for this cohort. I would like EDI to be viewed in much the same way as Health and Safety, in that everyone has a responsibility to be mindful and act where there are breaches.

Thames Reach have been vocal in the campaign for key workers and people experiencing homeless to have access to the COVID vaccine. What are your thoughts?

The local authorities we work with have made the COVID vaccine available to Thames Reach’s front line workers. Initially, like many others, I wanted to wait to take the vaccine to see how other people fare with it. However, with more information, over time my attitude has changed and I am pleased to say I had my first vaccine on Sunday. Whilst it does not give me 100% protection it gives me some comfort that in a few weeks’ time I will have some level of protection against COVID.