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.

Reconnected after many years

Formerly homeless, Dennis initiated a search using the hashtag #FindMary to find the one key worker he listened to

Reconnected after many years

When a former Thames Reach volunteer, Dennis Rogers, was informed he would be receiving an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for using his past experience of homelessness to become a role model for people who are homeless, he felt compelled to find Mary – a former Thames Reach worker who used a firm approach to support Dennis away from homelessness many years ago.

He wanted to thank her for her support and tell her how much of a difference her encouragement made. So he initiated a search on social media using the hashtag #FindMary.

In an interview conducted with Groundswell charity, where Dennis now works as a caseworker, he reflects on his special relationship with Mary Mullany – who at the time worked as a Substance Misuse Specialist on Thames Reach’s Tenancy Sustainment Team.

“I was homeless roughly about 10 years, but I done that in two hits. So the first time I was homeless and come off the streets I never dealt really with my alcoholism, you know I sort of white knuckled it.

“I got married, then things went wrong. I then ended up back on the street for another 5 years”.

Mary then supported Dennis as he went through rehab for one year, even though at times he wanted to leave.

“I tried all the excuses to get out. I rang her up and she said well you give me a good reason why you need to leave the rehab and I’ll come pick you up and take you home. Well I couldn’t think a really good, I found 1000 little reasons but I couldn’t, I knew she had an answer to everything so I gave up.

“I lasted the year there.

“I kept every single appointment, because she was quite stern. I think I needed that you know.

Upon leaving rehab, Dennis decided what he wanted to do for work.

“Mary and I were talking over lunch and I said that I want to work with the homeless.

“I said I want to be as good as you, and she said no, I want you to be better than me”.

Since then, the two lost all contact. But by using the hashtag #FindMary on social media, Dennis was able to track her down with the help of Thames Reach staff.

Dennis and Mary have now reconnected and will attend his MBE presentation together at Buckingham Palace in March where he will receive an MBE.

Read the full interview with Dennis Rogers here.

Picture: Dennis Rogers

Housing First scheme launched to support former rough sleepers

New Housing First scheme underway

Housing First scheme launched to support former rough sleepers

A new scheme called Housing First has been launched and is currently being delivered by Thames Reach and Croydon Council. The aim of the scheme is to get people who are at risk of homelessness into their own accommodation.

The scheme, which was initially set up in 2018, is aimed at supporting people with a history of sleeping rough to settle into their own accommodation, and get the immediate support they need to prevent them returning to the streets.

Through this scheme, 20 people will receive a key to their own flat, and will be supported by a Thames Reach key worker who will help tenants to access specialist support for their needs. This may include access to local health, skills, benefits and employability services.

Key workers will also support the tenants to source furniture, helping them to create a home where they feel comfortable and can take steps towards independent living.  

Jakub Turek, Senior Practitioner at Thames Reach who manages the service said;

“So far, five people, including one person who was referred from Thames Reach’s Social Impact Bond (SIB) service have moved into refurbished accommodation across Croydon.

“The current tenants have quickly become settled and are excited to explore their options for the future, whether that’s volunteering, rehab, training or employment.

“Our key workers are a vital part of the journey, and support people using a flexible step by step approach, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to progress at a pace which is right for them.

“Accommodation isn’t the whole solution, but it is part of the solution in helping people move away from homelessness, and through Housing First we will ensure the tenants have access to a range of support services, giving them the opportunity to move forward with their lives”.

Kris Draper, Area Director at Thames Reach said:

“It’s vital that rough sleepers are able to rapidly move into and keep accommodation where they can feel safe”

“Five more people are now in the process of accessing their own accommodation through Housing First, and we are looking forward to working with more people and helping them to make positive changes

“This service would not be a success without our partnership with Croydon Council so we would like to thank them for their support and assistance”.  

Housing First is one of many ways that Thames Reach and Croydon Council are helping people to move away from homelessness.

Response to the MHCLG annual rough sleeping statistics

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government release annual figures

Response to the MHCLG annual rough sleeping statistics

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG)  has today released their official rough sleeping statistics for Autumn 2018.

The numbers are gathered annually in England using street counts which are carried out by charities and local authorities on a single representative night. The leading statistic shows that 4,677 people were found to be sleeping rough on that evening, a 2% reduction from Autumn 2017 when the number was 4,751.

The figures show that London accounted for 27% of all rough sleepers, up from 24% last year, showing that rough sleeping in the capital is still very much on the rise.

Figure counts from the evening in Autumn 2018 also show that the number of EU nationals sleeping rough in London is at an all-time high, with this group accounting for 22% of all rough sleepers – up from 16% last year.

The statistics are significantly higher for this group in London, with EU rough sleepers accounting for 48% of the total count in the capital.

Catherine Parsons, Director of Operations at Thames Reach, said: “Any reduction is encouraging, and shows the initial impact of the additional resources and co-ordination through the rough sleeping initiative.

“Although the number has fallen slightly at a national level, the numbers of those sleeping rough in London continue to rise, an increase largely driven by people from the EU and new rough sleepers.

The London figures are reflected in the quarterly CHAIN data, published today. These figures can be accessed here.

You can read the MHCLG statistics here.