Support for homelessness recovery with Connect, Home, Aspire (CHA)

Megan is a support worker in the Connect, Home, Aspire (CHA) team, helping people recover from homelessness into suitable and stable accommodation

Support for homelessness recovery with Connect, Home, Aspire (CHA)

Content warning: non-graphic references to domestic violence

Megan is a support worker in the Connect, Home, Aspire (CHA) team, who provide a service for people with a range of support needs. The team help people get into suitable and stable accommodation, acting as a stepping stone between supported and private accommodation. Megan discusses the work she does, a significant part of which is keeping in regular contact with her clients, on the phone and in-person.

“I’ve been in the CHA team since joining Thames Reach in December 2021, when the service first started. I have a caseload of around 22 people I work with, who have been referred to us from other homelessness services in London, as well as other teams at Thames Reach. As a woman, most of the female survivors of domestic violence in the project will be in my caseload; this ensures our support is tailored to the individual’s past trauma.

“When I have been assigned a referral, I make contact by phone initially and then will often meet them in-person. It’s important to speak to people face-to-face for initial assessments, so we can cater to what they actually need, and understand their journey. We see people in a range of situations, and no two people are the same. If someone is currently rough sleeping, I will move my schedule around to prioritise them urgently.

“We work with a partner housing association, Cromwood, to house people in long-term, sustainable accommodation. We often have to advocate for people who are referred to us, and build the trust on both sides, once we are certain that the new flat being offered is the best option. Once an offer has been made, we meet with the housing officer and the new tenant at the property to sign the contract and pick up keys.

“It is at this point that our support packages really vary; although in CHA the people we work with have medium-to-high needs, this can vary between weekly to biweekly check-ins, potentially being less frequent as time goes on. In subsequent appointments we will work together to help them with a range of things including registering with a GP, setting up and accompanying them to appointments if necessary, and applying for grants and benefits.

“Promoting independence is essential in what we do, which can include establishing links to new and existing communities, and re-establishing links with family and friends.

“Connect, Home, Aspire is a pan-London service, and we get referrals from a wide range of places, so it is important that I schedule my time so I am spending as little time travelling as possible, visiting my clients who are local to each other in the same day. We play an active role in ensuring people are comfortable in their new accommodation and are integrating well into their daily life; we sometimes attend appointments at GPs, hospitals, courts and food banks with individuals so they feel represented and can build confidence in living more independently, after traumatic periods of their lives.”

Ealing Move-On Team compete in Tough Mudder

Thames Reach’s Move-On team based in Ealing competed in the Tough Mudder challenge to raise money for people affected by digital exclusion

Ealing Move-On Team compete in Tough Mudder

Over the weekend, members of the Ealing Move-On team competed in the famous Tough Mudder, in order to raise funds for the people they work with facing digital exclusion. Diana, a senior practitioner in the team, discussed how the day went:

“The team got together at the start of the day, excited and nervous for the task ahead.

“We kept doing fundraising calls until the last minute! We have received great support form our colleagues at Thames Reach, friends, family, colleagues from partner organisations and the local authority.

“Once we reached the grounds, it got real, there was no way back, we all started feeling the energy and enthusiasm of the event; all our belongings were dropped off, including phones. Then it was only us, together as a team, warming up on the starting line.

“One by one, the barbed wire, the muddy slopes, the running on the mud, the jumping of fences, the frozen, icy waters and rope pyramids, the electric obstacles, united us together as a team.  It tested phobias, fears and most importantly it showed us that we could conquer it all, working together, supporting each other through hard times. The experience reminded us that we were doing this for the people we work with, who face so many difficulties, inequalities, and loneliness.

“We finished all muddy, soaking wet and very proud for the conquering of 5K Tough Mudder.

“We were so tired afterwards, and struggled to find a ride to the nearest station, until a miracle happened and we managed to get a taxi. Instead of taking payment for carrying our muddy selves, he asked to donate the price of the fare to the fundraising page. This man warmed our hearts with an act of kindness and selflessness, which is needed in these testing times, and was a heartwarming and hopeful end to such an amazing day.”

Well done to the team for completing the muddy challenge: Jernel, Winston, Marie, Diana, Sylvia and Ishmael.

If you would like to donate, head to their JustGiving page.

If you have been inspired to fundraise for Thames Reach’s work ending street homelessness, please visit our fundraising page.

Pioneering outreach: The legacy of London Street Rescue

Area Manager, Michael Murray, looks at the legacy of London Street Rescue and future provisions for street outreach in London

Pioneering outreach: The legacy of London Street Rescue

As a pioneering model of street outreach, the London Street Rescue (LSR) service will finish at the end of September, as the service has highlighted the demand for localised services to support people who are sleeping rough. Michael Murray, Area Manager, talks us through how the service worked, and discusses its legacy.

How London Street Rescue works

“London Street Rescue was commissioned by the Greater London Authority (GLA) to provide a pan-London outreach response, mainly to outer London boroughs, where there may be less resources available for people sleeping rough. Many of the areas we worked in didn’t have things like emergency accommodation, hostels, day centres and other key services, so staff had to be creative and often work independently, across multiple boroughs. Each of the five boroughs we now work in has one dedicated lead worker to ensure we can be more structured and efficient in our approach.

“We provide initial support by assessing someone for any local connection and needs, before doing everything needed to successfully end their rough sleeping, including: referring to suitable accommodation, obtaining ID documents to help them move on, supporting with welfare benefits, accessing health services and signposting for immigration support. As we are a response service to rough sleeping, we close a case once they have successfully moved off the street, and we ensure they have secured ongoing support elsewhere.”

How LSR have shaped the vision of ending rough sleeping

“Since the Rapid Response Outreach Team was commissioned, as part of a funding drive by central government to end rough sleeping by 2025, LSR have solely focussed on working with those living on the street.  Many of the boroughs we used to work in were successful in receiving bids to fund their own outreach response, many of them now delivered by Thames Rreach oureach teams. ”

The future of outreach after LSR

“LSR has had a reputation as one of the leading outreach teams in London for many years and the service has seen many changes. I think the support available for rough sleeping in London has never been better and this is why we’re in a position where London no longer requires a service like LSR.  There is still a lot of work to be done and the environment is ever-changing, which could bring new challenges.  Most boroughs now have the resources to provide their own dedicated response. The four boroughs we support in South-East London decided to make a joint bid for an outreach team and were successful.  The GLA are keen for there to be no gap in service provision after LSR formally ends, so it has been agreed that Thames Reach will deliver the new south-east outreach team, due to start on 1 October.  

Bill Tidnam, Chief Executive at Thames Reach, also reflects on its legacy:

“The key legacy of of LSR is that it delivered outreach across London to boroughs that didn’t have their own outreach teams, and by doing so identified the demand that led to boroughs commissioning their own services and understanding the responsibility for rough sleeping, and providing solutions on a local level. Supported by central government funding, this has been a key part of the improvement in the response to people sleeping rough over the last three years.”

Thames Reach responds to new CHAIN rough sleeping figures

As new annual CHAIN stats for 2019/2020 show an increase in numbers of people rough sleeping, Thames Reach outline why numbers have risen

Thames Reach responds to new CHAIN rough sleeping figures

Each year, statistics on the number of people seen sleeping in London are published by CHAIN (Combined Homelessness And Information Network). Today, 9 September, annual figures covering the period from April 2019 to March 2020 have been released, and Thames Reach are disappointed to see an increase in numbers of people sleeping rough. However, it is worth noting that a number of factors, including increased outreach work and regular street counts, are likely to have inflated these numbers. So, while the figures are high and should be of concern, they are not directly comparable with previous years’ figures.

To breakdown the report: with over 10,000 people spotted as sleeping rough on the capital’s streets, this is a 21% increase on numbers from the previous year; however 60% of these people were seen rough sleeping just once, meaning that suitable solutions were found immediately for the majority of people spotted by outreach teams. Over 7,000 people were found sleeping rough for the first time in just one year. The disproportionate number of people from Central and Eastern European countries sleeping rough reflects the limited options available to this group and continues to be a concern, now making up 30% of the total. Numbers of people with mental health and substance support needs have remained the same at 47% and 39% respectively; at Thames Reach we are committed to ensuring that homeless people gain access to the healthcare they need, and work in close collaboration with health services to call into question the stigmatisation homeless people face regarding their wellbeing.

Looking beyond these figures and focusing more closely on the past six months, we are now seeing more people on the streets as a result of the pandemic. Many of these people are new to rough sleeping and it is important that we are able to intervene early and get them off the streets before this becomes a way of life.  A key part of a successful intervention is sourcing an initial place of safety and providing a quick assessment of options. This is usually done through the No Second Night Out hubs, but the high level of shared facilities means that they have not been open since March due to social distancing requirements. While this is understandable, without this crucial point of help there is a real danger that people who are new to rough sleeping aren’t able to get off the streets quickly and become entrenched in their homelessness.  While we recognise that running shared assessment space is challenging in the current environment, it is crucial that we are able to adapt and intervene quickly as soon as someone ends up on the streets.

Check out our website in the coming weeks to see how Thames Reach are helping people experiencing, and at risk of, homelessness. Through prevention, response and recovery support, we are helping people find decent homes, build supportive relationships and lead fulfilling lives in these most challenging times.

World’s Big Sleep Out a huge success

Thames Reach were one of the beneficiary charities of London’s World’s Big Sleep Out event on 7 December. The event was a great moment of solidarity in the movement to end homelessness

World’s Big Sleep Out a huge success

On Saturday 7th December, over 2,000 people slept out in Trafalgar Square for the World’s Big Sleep Out. Thames Reach were one of the chosen beneficiary charities of the London branch of the global event, which raised money and awareness with the goal of ending homelessness around the world.

It was an inspirational night for all involved, with people sharing Thames Reach’s mission of ending street homelessness coming together to show their commitment to the cause. The weather on the night was cold but dry up until the middle of the night, where it began to rain heavily, giving the 2,000 fundraisers insight into one aspect of life on the streets in winter.

Aside from sleeping out, fundraisers were treated to a concert, compered by comedian Steven K. Amos, with music from a great lineup including Travis, Rag N Bone Man, Tom Walker and Jake Bugg, with a bedtime story read by Dame Helen Mirren.

Our Chief Executive, Bill Tidnam, also took to the stage to represent Thames Reach and introduce our work to the crowd. He then introduced the next act: Thames Reach clients in partnership with the National Theatre’s Public Acts initiative, who performed a moving rendition of ‘My Own Way Home’, a song from their 2018 production of Pericles. You can read about the project here.

Thames Reach are proud to have been involved in the event; highlighting the reality of homelessness to the public and government is incredibly important to us. We were there ourselves in the Charities Tent, ready to chat with anyone who wanted to know more about our work, and those who couldn’t sleep on Saturday night, to remind them about the vital work their fundraising will support.

Thank you to all who were involved, donated and slept out on 7 December. Watch this space for more information on the World’s Big Sleep Out legacy, and how it will support our various projects including the Hard to Reach Fund.

Thames Reach joins ‘End Homelessness Now’ campaign

Homelessness charities are calling on every political party to #EndHomelessness, and to publish a plan setting out how they’ll do this within the first year of government.

Thames Reach joins ‘End Homelessness Now’ campaign

In our society, we should all have a safe place to call home. But rising living costs and low-paid, unstable jobs put constant pressure on us, like water pressing against a dam. Without help, the dam can break, forcing people into homelessness.

But homelessness is not inevitable. In England by the late 2000s we’d nearly ended rough sleeping, and many countries and cities around the world have ended some forms of homelessness.

The next Government has the power to make sure that everybody in our society has a safe and stable home, by putting in place a plan that commits to:

Improving access to truly affordable housing, by building at least 90,000 social homes a year over the next five years, and improving security for tenants in the private rented sector 
– Strengthening support through the welfare system, through housing benefit that covers the cost of rent and fixing Universal Credit so that it doesn’t push people into homelessness  
Providing long-term, guaranteed funding for services which prevent homelessness and quickly get people off the street and into a stable home.  

If nothing changes, thousands more of us will be pushed into homelessness. This General Election we’re calling on every political party to #EndHomelessness, and to publish a plan setting out how they’ll do this within the first year of government. 

End Homelessness Now is a collaborative campaign between various homelessness charities and organisations working to end homelessness. Visit the official website:

Chief Executive Bill Tidnam responds to new rough sleeping figures – November 2019

Bill Tidnam, Thames Reach’s Chief Executive, responds to the Greater London Authority’s latest rough sleeping statistics

Chief Executive Bill Tidnam responds to new rough sleeping figures – November 2019

The Greater London Authority’s latest CHAIN statistics were released on 31 October. Findings include a 51% increase in first-time rough sleepers, as well as 49% of rough sleepers having a mental health need and an increase in non-UK nationals sleeping rough, which is now at over half the overall figure. Thames Reach Chief Executive, Bill Tidnam, responds to the statistics.

“It is depressing to see the rough sleeping figures rise again in London, but it seems likely that the trend will continue until we get to grips with the issues that are forcing people onto the streets.  There are lots of specific factors: high rents, reductions in benefits which particularly affect London, lack of help for non-UK nationals who make up a big proportion of the increase in numbers, as well as rises in untreated mental illness  and substance misuse. Our work on the streets and in hostels can only respond to the rough sleeping caused by these issues. Outreach teams are working harder than ever to help people off the streets, but we need to see further investment in a preventative approach that helps people before they experience the damage and dislocation associated with street homelessness.”

The Greater London Authority release quarterly statistics on rough sleeping in the capital. The second quarter’s data was released on 31 October. All are available to view here.

How World’s Big Sleep Out will help Thames Reach end street homelessness

Bill Tidnam, Thames Reach’s Chief Executive, discusses how our involvement in World’s Big Sleep Out contributes to our mission of ending street homelessness

How World’s Big Sleep Out will help Thames Reach end street homelessness

Thames Reach have been selected as one of the partner charities and beneficiaries of World’s Big Sleep Out. Aimed at tackling homelessness, this mass participation event will see thousands of fundraisers sleep out in 50 cities across the globe including London on Saturday 7th December 2019. The London event will take place at Trafalgar Square and will feature entertainment from leading musicians, as well as a ‘bedtime story’ from Dame Helen Mirren. Thames Reach Chief Executive Bill Tidnam discusses the crucial work of our Hard to Reach Fund, which will receive support from the event.

Most of the services that Thames Reach provide are funded by local and regional authorities, where we work to a contract that specifies what we will do, with whom, how we will do it and how much we will be paid.  Over the last ten years this latter figure has got gradually tighter, to the extent that it barely covers the cost of running a hostel, or providing help for people to stay in their tenancy, or for us to go out and find people who are sleeping rough and get them inside.   

Homelessness isn’t just about having nowhere to stay- it’s also about being on your own and having no-one on your side, and it’s about feeling that you are worthless and have nothing to offer. Government funding is welcome but it doesn’t pay for the cost of helping people improve their literacy or do a course; the cost of turning a flat into a home after a period on the streets; or pay for fares to reconnect with family.  It also doesn’t pay for us to help people move from using services to delivering them as volunteers; or for the cost of buying buildings to provide affordable accommodation so that people can avoid homelessness and stay in work.

One way that we deal with this is by using something that we call the ‘Hard to Reach’ Fund. Over the last couple of years we’ve been able to help people move away from homelessness by helping them buy the things that will help them move on with their lives, so furniture and cookers; but also replacement documentation, so that they can get back into work; training courses and transport to get there; as well as things as basic as a pair of shoes. 

That’s why we are part of the World’s Big Sleep Out: It puts a spotlight on the human crisis of homelessness in London and elsewhere; and it provides an opportunity to raise money that will make a real difference to the people we work with. 

World’s Big Sleep Out is taking place on 7 December. Events are taking place across the world, including London’s Trafalgar Square. If you’d like to take part or know more, check out the official website.

New night shelter helping former rough sleepers

A new night shelter is providing former rough sleepers with a place to stay

New night shelter helping former rough sleepers

Thames Reach has opened a new night shelter in South London offering accommodation for up to 15 former rough sleepers.

The night shelter is open to people who are unable to access public funds or who lack a connection to a London borough that would allow them to use local services.

The shelter is open at night; it provides a short term place to stay for residents while they are helped to find secure accommodation and access training and employment opportunities. Residents receive support from a range of Thames Reach services, including STAR, Safe Connections, and the Employment and Skills team.

Since opening late last year, the shelter has helped 19 people to find more long term accommodation, and several residents have also been helped to find work.

Thames Reach responds to new figures detailing homeless deaths

Bill Tidnam, Thames Reach’s Chief Executive comments on new homeless death figures

Thames Reach responds to new figures detailing homeless deaths

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has today released figures detailing the number of people who have died while homeless in 156 of the 347 local authorities in England and Wales between 2013 and 2017.

Bill Tidnam, Chief Executive at Thames Reach responded saying:

“These figures are a tragedy.

“Through our outreach work on the streets, and through our hostels and other services, we know that rough sleeping causes lasting damage to a person’s physical health.

“This means that people who have slept rough are often much less healthy and die younger than the rest of the population. 

“These health problems stay with them even when they leave the streets, and are made worse by poor access to the health care that they need. 

“The latest statistics from CHAIN (Combined Homelessness And Information Network) show that 50% of people who are sleeping rough have mental health issues, as well as drug and alcohol problems.  

“As well as helping people to move away from the streets, we need to be working with colleagues in the NHS to help vulnerable people access the local health services and treatments they need, to recover and stay well”.

To read more about the figures, click here.