From Bill Tidnam, Chief Executive: Why the London Charter Matters to Us

The Charter is a way to get people together around a common goal – to end rough sleeping in London.

From Bill Tidnam, Chief Executive: Why the London Charter Matters to Us

At Thames Reach, we believe that no one should need to sleep on the streets, and of course, we support the London Charter to End Rough Sleeping. It’s worth explaining why we think that this is important, and not just a another way for charities that work with people affected by homelessness (including Thames Reach) to speak out around Christmas as the window of public sympathy opens – albeit briefly. 

For us, there are three things that are different about the Charter: 

1. It asks us to recognise that people who sleep rough are people who can’t be defined by their housing situation. 

They all have their own stories, and their homelessness is a part of their story that they and we hope will be in their past.  I’m uncomfortable when people talk about the homeless or rough sleeping ‘community’ as if street homelessness is some sort of quasi village, that is united by a similar backstory, and who we expect to stay on the streets as a way of life.  Equally (depending on your point of view) the idea that homeless people are solely either victims or perpetrators of crime is clearly untrue and serves to exclude them from mainstream society and possibly the protection of the law that the rest of us expect.  

2. The Charter recognises that members of the public aren’t helpless. 

At one level they can donate to and volunteer with charities that work to help people away from the streets; they can use Street Link to make sure people sleeping rough get help; and they can recognise that we don’t have to have street homelessness, which leads to my final point. 

3. At Thames Reach, we aren’t arrogant enough to think that we can end street homelessness on our own. 

This a systemic problem that we believe is bigger than any charity.  While we can join up services and play a significant part- this is a complex issue that needs the mechanism of government at local and national level to work together.  This charter and your support for it makes the difference between government seeing homelessness as a problem that is tolerable, and one that they are under pressure to resolve.  

Please sign the Charter and show that you think that we shouldn’t accept that people needing to sleep on the streets is just the way things are, and show that you believe we can and should do what we need to do to end street homelessness. 

Launching the London Charter to End Rough Sleeping

Join us in signing the London Charter to End Rough Sleeping, taking a step towards a London where no one sleeps on the streets.

Launching the London Charter to End Rough Sleeping

In a collaborative effort led by Bloomberg and supported by the Mayor of London, the London Charter to End Rough Sleeping has been officially launched today—7th December 2023.

To mark the launch, our Chief Executive, Bill Tidnam, participated in an event at St John’s Church in Waterloo, to sign the charter alongside the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and representatives from more than 40 organisations.

The Charter aims to unite individuals, businesses, faith groups, charities, and public bodies in the shared mission to eliminate rough sleeping in our city. It represents a public commitment, a pledge to strengthen partnerships, and an opportunity for diverse communities to actively contribute to a solution.

Thames Reach wholeheartedly supports the Charter and had the privilege of being involved in its planning process.

Bill emphasises, “We shouldn’t be prepared to accept that people needing to sleep rough on the streets of London is inevitable. At Thames Reach, we work day and night to help people off the streets and to prevent them from becoming homeless. We can’t do this alone; we need the support of the people and businesses that live and work in London. Please show that you believe that things can be different and sign up for the Charter to End Rough Sleeping in London.

By signing the Charter, individuals, businesses, and organisations make a real impact. It keeps the issue in the spotlight, showing policymakers that many care about ending rough sleeping in London.

Whether you’ve been a committed advocate or are new to the cause, your support goes a long way. Visit the Charter website to sign up, make a pledge, donate, or volunteer. Every small action adds up to the collective effort to end rough sleeping in London.

Thames Reach Endorses Literacy100’s Charter

The Charter outlines a range of expectations to support individuals with experience of homelessness in developing essential literacy skills

Thames Reach Endorses Literacy100’s Charter

Literacy, including digital literacy, is now more critical than ever in enabling people to lead fulfilling lives, as even basic tasks like accessing benefits or communicating with healthcare professionals require a certain level of literacy skills. We know through our own programmes that people coming to us for help with apparently more ‘urgent’ needs such as paying rent or preventing eviction, often struggle with an underlying lack of essential skills including literacy. 

Despite the critical importance of literacy, the need for support isn’t always adequately met within traditional educational settings, particularly in colleges that may not be structured to address the unique challenges of individuals with difficulties or traumas related to learning. 

Literacy100 is a vital organisation addressing the pressing issue that an estimated half of those with experience of homelessness struggle with literacy skills.  

Recognising literacy as a fundamental human right, Thames Reach fully supports Literacy100’s recently published Charter for Adults with Experience of Homelessness. The Charter outlines essential expectations to empower individuals with experience of homelessness through literacy, including: 

– Community Support: Access to local options for developing reading and writing skills and enriching experiences through shared reading activities. 

– Organisational Commitment: Homelessness and housing organisations must recognise and address literacy needs as a core part of their work, providing access to technology for literacy enhancement. 

– Education Support: Learning providers should allocate skilled teachers, flexible provisions, and sustained support for learners with literacy challenges, including specific learning difficulties. 

– Policy Advocacy: National and local policy-makers should prioritise addressing literacy needs and allocate resources accordingly. 

“Not being able to read and write is both a cause and a symptom of homelessness. It is a barrier to recovery and being able to move on with your life after homelessness.  

Our dedicated Employment and Skills team works to help the people who use our services to build these essential skills, but our resources are limited, and this isn’t something we can do on our own.  We need access to dedicated local resources as well as funding to continue to provide the support we do. 

We support the Literacy 100 Charter and call on others to do the same, and to support the people we work with to get the help they need to take control of their lives and participate in society.”

 – Bill Tidnam, Chief Executive at Thames Reach


Join us in championing literacy as a transformative force for individuals with experience of homelessness. Learn more about Literacy100’s Charter and their impactful work by visiting their website.

Homeless Healthcare: Croydon Hospital Discharge Project

Lead worker Teena Raval discusses her work at Croydon Hospital Discharge project, ensuring people do not return to the streets after being discharged from Croydon University Hospital

Homeless Healthcare: Croydon Hospital Discharge Project

The Croydon Hospital Discharge project sees a Thames Reach staff member based at Croydon University Hospital, working with medical, social care and administrative staff both on wards and in the A&E department to avoid patients being discharged out onto the street. 

The service offers a person-centred approach to hospital patients focusing on enabling and supporting individuals specifically with support needs related to housing and welfare benefits. Thames Reach lead worker Teena Raval discusses how the project has adapted to the pandemic and plans for the future.

“One of the issues that has arisen during the pandemic is that people with pre-existing medical conditions have fallen through the net, as non-COVID medical procedures and appointments had to be cancelled. Anxieties around coming to appointments have also been a huge part of this, so mental health support is also really important in helping clients during and after the pandemic.

“The numbers of referrals from other services are about the same as usual, but we’re waiting to see what a second wave of the virus could mean for us. As the public integrate more, there is an increased risk, and people who were shielding will still need extra support and to take caution. The demand for our service didn’t ever decrease so we’ve been moving people on at the same rate as normal; 100% of people we were working with throughout the pandemic have been suitably housed.

“I’m the only Thames Reach member of staff on the project, so my role involves collaborating and liaising with a range of different services across Croydon and beyond, such as outreach services, other support organisations, as well as hospitals to ensure patients are receiving adequate support. These are long-running partnerships and we’re really proud of the work we do as a team. Each organisation has an important part to play, and we regularly work with the Salvation Army, Turning Point [drug and alcohol services], the council, Rainbow Health Centre [homeless health service] and Crisis to ensure a well-rounded support package is available to prevent individuals returning to hospital.

Moving forward, I’ll be looking at recruiting volunteers to support the project; there is only one of me from Thames Reach so we’re looking at doing training for new volunteers so we can run longer hours in the project. This wouldn’t be for a full service, but just for signposting and advice out-of-hours. Our service is vital to the hospital so we need to grow it accordingly.”


How learning and development has gone virtual at Thames Reach

We spoke with Sarah Jeeves, Learning and Development Officer, about her work coordinating staff training as it moves online

How learning and development has gone virtual at Thames Reach

Learning and development is a crucial part of working at Thames Reach, and during the Covid crisis the ways in which staff have developed their roles and gained new skills have had to adapt. Thames Reach provide a year-round programme of training opportunities including Health and Safety, First Aid, Equality and Diversity and Social and Corporate Responsibility. We spoke with Sarah Jeeves, Learning and Development Officer, about how training has adapted to a new virtual way of working.

What were your main concerns about continuing your learning and development when lockdown started?

At first we were wondering what to do. Of course it wasn’t something we were prepared for, there was no Plan B but I wanted to keep the energy and strategy going despite lockdown. I’d never taught or facilitated teaching online before at Thames Reach, but I realised that we needed to adapt straight away. We still had the annual training programme to accommodate, as well as the Pathways Into Management initiative and the ILM [Institute of Leadership Management] qualification, both of which are training a group of internal candidates to progress in their career within Thames Reach into management roles.

How is virtual training going?

It’s been really well received. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well people have been engaging with everything. Staff seem to be taking it as an opportunity to improve confidence, as they can access training that would usually be done in groups from the comfort of their own home or office, so often will be more comfortable to ask questions and get involved. Across all training, places have stayed fully booked, so people are still engaged and ready to learn. We also have our cohort of trainees, who have come through the traineeship programme which is very popular. They were inducted at the start of May and are now on placement across Thames Reach, adhering to the same social distancing measures as all other staff. It’s going really well, I’ve been in regular contact with lead managers and the trainees’ supervisors and the feedback has been good so far.

How has training adapted?

While it’s definitely nice to have face-to-face interaction, under these circumstances we have to deal with the fact that this isn’t really possible. Now that we’ve gotten used to tech and the administrative side of things, we’re finding that training actually works better online, it’s more efficient. Our Cultural Diversity training, for example, works really well, as everyone can be in one virtual space at once while the trainer is talking, then we can split them into smaller groups once or twice over the course of the day. We do regular Emergency First Aid and Mental Health First Aid courses too, which can’t be done remotely due to the nature of the teaching, so that has been postponed for the time being.

As I said we haven’t been able to do Emergency First Aid as it’s not available from any trainer until lockdown is fully lifted, but it’s been great to see Senior Management get involved with training, and it’s clear that staff really appreciate it. I’ve been making and securing new relationships with trainers and organisers, which has been a big benefit. Homeless Link is one example who have been great to work with; they will be providing training on Managing Conflict, Violence and Aggression, to replace our Working with Challenging Behaviour training that had to be cancelled.

So it sounds like it’s generally been a positive experience. What are you bringing forward into learning and development in the future?

Building relationships with people internally and externally has been really good, I don’t usually get to sit in on training so I’ve learned a lot too. Even just getting to chat with other staff before the training starts has been really nice. I’ve been more hands-on with the tech and administrative sides of training, so it’s been a good learning curve for me. We’re definitely going to make the most of Zoom and Microsoft Teams in the future so training can fit around other work commitments and staff won’t have to travel. I was concerned that ILM and Progression Into Management candidates would lose motivation and momentum but we’ve seen people come together and make the most of virtual opportunities such as webinars, so we’re encouraged by this and looking forward to using these techniques going forward. I also organised Thames Reach’s first Staff Wellbeing Week last September, which was very successful. We’re currently working on doing an adapted version for this year, taking on board everything we’ve learned, so watch this space!


NB: Of course, the photo above was taken long before lockdown, from the fantastic Mental Health First Aid training run by MHFA England, which will resume for staff once lockdown is fully lifted