Helping people move on from homelessness for good

Alannah, a Thames Reach housing officer at The Greenhouse, shares insights into her daily work, the main challenges she faces, and what success means in her role.

Helping people move on from homelessness for good

The Greenhouse, a day centre located in Hackney, serves as a crucial support service for people experiencing homelessness in the borough, offering help with housing and healthcare. In this post, Alannah, a Thames Reach housing officer at The Greenhouse, shares insights into her daily work, the main challenges she faces, and what success means in her role.

Inside Alannah’s role

Alannah’s job is diverse and dynamic. “I love it, it’s hard, but I love it”, she says. Her work involves much more than finding housing for the people we support. “Sometimes I fill in the role of a support worker, a mental health worker, all sorts of things… sometimes people need a hand because they are upset, sometimes you just do what you can do”.

This variety makes each day different and engaging. Alannah enjoys the people-focused nature of her job, which allows her to develop in-person relationships with the individuals she supports. “Even though we are in an office space, it is not an office job, it’s a people job, it feels quite frontline. I see my clients in person, and I build in-person relationships with them, which I really like”.

Challenges and achievements

The housing crisis is a significant challenge in Alannah’s work. “Not enough places to put people in and they need somewhere to be put in”, she notes. The shortage of housing options is a major obstacle, and many of the people she supports face limitations that make this process even more difficult.

For instance, some of the people Alannah supports lack basic resources that make it hard for them to navigate the housing system. “I support people who are in their late sixties and do not have bank accounts, do not have phones, or have never set up an email address before… it isolates them”.

Addressing homelessness requires more than just providing a roof over someone’s head. The people we support at Thames Reach often have complex needs that go beyond housing, such as health or addiction issues. Alannah emphasises this point: “There’s a lot of complex needs people we work with have, and if those issues aren’t addressed, people deteriorate, and then even if you were to house them, they are not well enough to be there”.

For this reason, a unique aspect of her role is the collaboration with healthcare professionals. The Greenhouse hosts a GP practice within the same building, offering integrated support that significantly improves the services we provide. “I’ve really enjoyed working with the GP here… I’ve had people come in with quite serious symptoms and issues and I’ve been able to get them checked immediately”, she explains. This immediate access to medical support is invaluable for the people we support, allowing us to address both their housing and health needs promptly and effectively.

Despite the challenges, Alannah finds great satisfaction in her work. “I’ve seen people recover. I’ve seen people not just get housed but actually feel better as people,” she shares. Helping people move into stable housing and seeing them rebuild their lives is a significant achievement. “I enjoy that… how they are never going to need to come back here, and I will never see them again, apart from maybe at Christmas, when they drop me off a nice card”.

 

Celebrating our volunteers

Find out how volunteering with Thames Reach transformed Avishai’s life and see how you can make a difference too.

Celebrating our volunteers

As we celebrate Volunteers’ Week, we at Thames Reach want to shine a light on the incredible impact volunteers have on our mission to end rough sleeping. More than 130 volunteers add huge value to what we do, offering their time, skills, and compassion to support people experiencing homelessness.

Today, we’d like to share the story of one of our dedicated volunteers, Avishai, who joined Thames Reach as a digital volunteer with the Employment and Skills team last year.

Avishai’s story

Avishai started volunteering with Thames Reach in March 2023 after he learned about the opportunity at a lunch club in a homeless shelter. Since then, he has become an integral part of our Employment & Skills team, using his tech expertise to provide digital assistance to those we support.

Once every week, Avishai arrives at the Employment Academy ready to assist with a range of digital tasks. From setting up accounts to repairing devices, he provides crucial digital assistance to the individuals we support. His role also involves interacting with these individuals, a responsibility that initially made him hesitant, but now has become a rewarding part of his weekly routine.

Avishai shared, “In the last month, people have been asking specifically for me, which I am not used to”. This growing connection with the team and the people we support at Thames Reach highlights the positive impact he has made.

Personal and professional growth

Volunteering at Thames Reach has been a transformative experience for Avishai. With the guidance of the Employment & Skills team, he has learned to conduct himself professionally, understanding the importance of representing Thames Reach with integrity and respect. “Even as a volunteer, I represent Thames Reach, and if I don’t act professionally, I might give clients a bad impression of the organisation”, he reflected.

The skills Avishai developed through his volunteering have been key in helping him secure a paid job doing digital repairs. “In my paid job, even if I had the technical knowledge, nothing would get done if I didn’t know how to communicate effectively. And I wouldn’t be conducting myself the same way if it weren’t for this experience as a Thames Reach volunteer and the skills I gained from it”, he explains.

A heartfelt thanks to all our volunteers

Avishai’s story is just one example of the incredible impact our volunteers have. Whether they are helping with outreach, assisting with employment and skills, or providing vital support to one of our services, each volunteer contributes significantly to our mission. We are deeply grateful for their dedication, compassion, and hard work.

Inspired by Avishai’s journey? There are many ways to get involved with Thames Reach. Whether you have technical skills, enjoy outreach work, or want to support our mission in other ways, we have an opportunity for you. As Avishai wisely advises, “Everyone’s role is important; you just need to find what fits your characteristics”.

Explore our volunteering opportunities

Happy Volunteers’ Week!

Homelessness and Mental Health: David’s Story

See how our Staying Well team works to support individuals with mental health challenges by improving their well-being and living conditions. 

Homelessness and Mental Health: David’s Story

The connection between homelessness and mental health is both expressive and alarming. According to a report by Homeless Link, the number of people experiencing homelessness with a mental health diagnosis has drastically increased from 45% in 2014 to a staggering 82% between 2018 and 2021. 

David’s Journey 

Last summer, David* was facing numerous challenges, including a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, depressive disorder, and a mild learning disability. On top of these mental health issues, David also had prostate cancer and was suffering from profound social isolation. 

David’s living conditions were far from ideal. His council flat was in desperate need of repair—mould covered his bathroom, his fridge was broken, and his mattress was worn out. The distressing voices he heard exacerbated his isolation, leading to frequent panic attacks and sleepless nights. 

Our Staying Well Team, part of Lambeth Living Well Network, an alliance of organisations dedicated to improving the lives of people in Lambeth, stepped in to help. They ensured that David’s living conditions were improved, making his home a safe and comfortable environment, and positively reflecting on his well-being. 

Recently, however, David experienced a significant deterioration in his mental health. The voices he heard had gotten louder, causing severe panic attacks, sleepless nights, and days spent in bed.  

In response, the Staying Well team consulted with medical professionals from the alliance and coordinated appropriate interventions, including medication and home visits to assess his condition and discuss his symptoms. Their swift action stabilised David’s mental health, preventing further deterioration and avoiding hospitalisation. 

David has been attending medical appointments and will soon start radiography. The Staying Well Team continues to support him by regularly checking on his mental health, assisting with medical appointments, and meeting him at home and in the community. David has expressed that since working with the team, his life has become significantly less lonely and stressful, and he greatly appreciates having someone to contact when he has a problem. 

The Importance of Mental Health Support 

David’s story illustrates the importance of mental health support, especially for those who are vulnerable to experiencing homelessness. Our Staying Well team’s efforts show how integrated support can significantly improve the lives of individuals facing both homelessness and mental health challenges. 

Learn more about the Staying Well Team. 

*Name has been changed to protect the individual’s privacy. 

Layla’s story

Layla has been helped back into work with the help of the Lambeth IPS team

Layla’s story

Layla has been receiving support from the Lambeth IPS (Individual Placement and Support) team, who are a part of Thames Reach in our collaboration with the Lambeth Living Well Network Alliance. 

Layla has been living in Lambeth for several years, and was referred to the IPS service in late July, with an assessment done by the team two days later. At the time of the referral, Layla was out of work and looking to get back into full-time employment. The role of IPS is to work with people who have used mental health services in the borough who want to return to employment, or enter it for the first time.

Having graduated with a degree in media, the first piece of advice from the assessment was to boost her LinkedIn profile to become more visible to recruiters. A support worker in the IPS team worked with Layla to show her how to optimise her time on the platform and make connections, which is a vital tool to being seen by recruiters online.

Layla met with her support worker every week for at least two hours, where she was helped to apply for around fifty job vacancies in the industry she has trained in, looking at jobs in film and the media, using online job boards and resources.

She eventually found a role she was particularly keen on, a production controller. A recruiter had engaged with her through LinkedIn because he liked her profile. The first intervention of working on Layla’s LinkedIn profile was very valuable and had a positive outcome of helping her back into employment.

Her support worker is providing regular support now Layla is back in work, as her mental health makes her feel distress in certain environments. The team have worked in collaboration with Layla’s psychologist to create the most considered approach, using a mental health toolkit that was given to her before she was discharged.

Layla is now enjoying her new role and the independence that has come from it, knowing that she can speak to her support worker and team at Lambeth IPS if any challenges arise.

Read more about the Lambeth IPS service and how it is supporting Lambeth residents manage mental health in the workplace.

Ivo’s story – one year on

We meet with Ivo, a year after he told his story of recovery, helped by getting his own flat after experiencing mental health issues

Ivo’s story – one year on

Last year, we shared Ivo’s story, who has seen a huge improvement in his life since moving into his own flat through Brokerage and Resettlement in Lambeth (BRiL), a collaborative project between the Lambeth Living Well Network Alliance and Thames Reach, which aims to provide people living in supported or residential accommodation with a flat of their own.

As part of his ongoing journey with his mental health, Ivo received support from the Essentials Fund to help decorate his flat. Visiting him again in December 2022, it is clear how he has been able to make his flat a home, allowing his creative pursuits to flourish. As he welcomes us in, he says, “this is my studio now. This is where I paint.”

While Ivo has been painting and training in art for most of his life, it is clear that this is a therapeutic practice for him, and has contributed to his mental health recovery, as well as having his own flat.

“I’m in a good creative space at the moment. I love this flat, and I love Streatham. It’s a very good area to make connections in the community.” Making new friends and being able to talk about his interests has also been a huge benefit for Ivo, and although he moved into his flat during a lockdown in 2021, he now feels immersed in the community, including getting involved with volunteering in his spare time, and having opportunities to showcase his art locally.

“Things have really improved since I moved here. I feel back to my normal self, and I’m enjoying things slowly. I’m enjoying life now.  Having this flat has helped me feel peace of mind.”

The support Ivo is receiving from Thames Reach has recently reduced, due to his positive progress, but his support worker keeps in contact and is available if he needs advice or support. Ivo says that the combination of Thames Reach’s support, along with that of his community, has helped him gain independence and confidence.

Your donation to Thames Reach can help people gain independence and confidence, just like Ivo. Support our Essentials Fund today and make a real difference to those who need it the most.

John’s Story

How our Essentials Fund is helping people like John recovering from homelessness

John’s Story

While sleeping rough, John struggled with alcohol addiction. He suffered a bad fall whilst living on the streets and now walks with a crutch and sometimes experiences seizures. 

When John was helped off the street by outreach workers, it was important for him to have somewhere accessible to stay. He has recently moved into a self-contained flat, with a small kitchenette in a Thames Reach hostel.  

 

How the Essentials Fund has helped

As a former pastry chef, John was keen to get back into cooking.

With help from the Essentials Fund, John purchased an induction hob and pans. These essential items have enabled him to feel more independent and motivated.

John is excited for a fresh start and in his words, to ‘get better’. He wants to re-start his career as a chef and hopes that cooking on the hob will help refresh his memory and skills.

When the time comes for John to move on and leave the hostel, he can take his hob with him.

Please support our Essentials Fund this winter.

 

Report launches into impact of CLaSS

Thames Reach launches report into impact of Lambeth-based Community Living and Support Service

Report launches into impact of CLaSS

Yesterday, 10 November, Thames Reach held an event to launch a new independent report into the work done by our Community Living and Support Service (CLaSS).

Written by independent researcher Frank Curran of SP Solutions, the report looks at the impact CLaSS has had since the service first launched in February 2020.

What is CLaSS

The CLaSS team is comprised of staff from Thames Reach, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLAM) and Lambeth council. The team works with vulnerable people within Lambeth hospitals who are facing delays in being discharged from hospital due to non-medical issues such as housing. The team also works with people in the local community to prevent them from reaching a crisis point that might lead to a hospital admission.

CLaSS operates as part of the Lambeth Living Well Network Alliance, a partnership between Thames Reach, SLAM, Lambeth council, Certitude and the Lambeth NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, which helps people using mental health services in the London Borough of Lambeth.

Why it is needed

Many people who get admitted to hospital, and who have support needs related issues such as housing or mental health, often remain on hospital wards long after they are medically fit for discharge. Usually, because they are unable to return to the local community. As well as being immensely difficult and distressing for the people involved, this can also prove costly for hospitals with limited resources. CLaSS attempts to address this.

The report launch

Thames Reach held a remote launch event yesterday for the report, which featured a presentation on the findings, followed by a panel discussion.

Bill Tidnam, Thames Reach Chief Executive, said: ‘We’re proud of our involvement in the Lambeth Living Well Network Alliance, and the work of the CLaSS team which shows what this collaboration between partners can achieve. The report looks at the success of the team and their work to support discharge, and the approach of the Alliance that recognises the contribution that the voluntary sector can make in constructively challenging professional silos in the health and social care sector.’

You can watch both parts of the event below.

ClaSS Report Launch Part One – Presentation

ClaSS Report Launch Part Two – Panel Discussion

 

The CLaSS Report

You can also read the CLaSS Report in full here.

New grant for Deptford Reach will support five years of community outreach

A new grant from City Bridge Trust will see Deptford Reach providing community outreach support for five years

New grant for Deptford Reach will support five years of community outreach

We are pleased to announce that Deptford Reach, our service offering prevention support across Lewisham, has been awarded a grant that will fund five years of outreach in the community. This new model for Deptford Reach, which has been piloted for several months, will allow the team to work with people at risk of homelessness in the wider community, through food banks, churches, and other hubs, to ensure that support is directed where it is most needed. With the cost-of-living crisis, Thames Reach acknowledge that new people will require the service, so it is important that the team are expanding outside of the day centre model. New figures showing an increase in people sleeping rough for the first time highlights the need to take action to stop the existing crisis of street homelessness escalating further.

This funding is thanks to a partnership with City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charity funder, and will allow people to access support who may be affected by the social stigma of homelessness. With the support given by the Deptford Reach team, the objective is to help as many people as possible, through casework and engagement to help issues around accommodation, mental health, employment, and immigration.

Having been recognised with a £10,000 prize at the London Homelessness Awards in October, Deptford Reach will now secure its place as a valued service in the community by expanding into the wider Lewisham borough, reaching people who won’t have had contact with the service yet. With a presence at food banks, for example, people using this service will be able to receive practical advice on maintaining their tenancies and preventing homelessness as well as essential food supplies.

Fiona Sutherland, Area Director, said: “Thames Reach are delighted for the recognition and funding from City Bridge Trust in order to continue to work to resolve issues which lead to homelessness for people in Lewisham. We know street homelessness is traumatic, and this intervention will allow us to be visible and accessible in the local community, and offer resolutions to issues which commonly lead to homelessness.”

Jordan McTigue, Lead Manager for Deptford Reach, said: “This new funding will make sure we are delivering the best service for people at risk of homelessness, providing real options to help with specific issues being experienced. From experience, we know that being out in the community is an effective way to help people who may be feeling they are running out of options.”

New rough sleeping figures show a worrying increase in demand for homelessness services

Our Chief Executive, Bill Tidnam, breaks down the new figures on homelessness released today by City Hall

New rough sleeping figures show a worrying increase in demand for homelessness services

“New figures released by City Hall today show a worrying increase in people sleeping rough across all groups recorded, with the most significant increase in people sleeping rough for the first time, and non-UK citizens experiencing street homelessness. The data covers the period June to September, so before much of the increase in costs of living, which are likely to have a particular impact on people who receive benefits and are on low incomes, and on people who are moving away from street homelessness.

“The reasoning behind this increase is complex and will depend on the individual’s situation, but increasing pressure on the housing market has meant that private renting has become more expensive and precarious. The capping of benefits has also added to this pressure, particularly in London, where this means that much of the capital is unaffordable to people on benefits.”

Numbers increasing for the second quarter in a row

“A 33% increase in new people coming to the streets is a real concern. Our prevention services have been working with people in the community who are at risk of street homelessness as a result of low-quality housing and employment, immigration status or mental health support needs compounded by increasing costs, but we need to make sure that these services are funded and expanded to engage with people as early as possible to avoid the trauma of street homelessness.”

Numbers of non-UK citizens sleeping rough increasing

“The challenges facing people with limited or unclear eligibility and no recourse to public funding are not going away. We call on the government to continue reviewing their stance on non-UK citizens, so we can support people in a range of situations to get back into employment, secure their immigration status and move away from street homelessness.

“While we are all noticing the changes and strains under the current crisis, the same issues we have noticed for years remain the key issues in tackling homelessness: access to housing that is good quality, secure and affordable; employment; mental health support; substance use treatment, immigration advice and prevention measures. This includes direct engagement with different communities who may not feel comfortable accessing homelessness services themselves.”

Making volunteering a fulfilling and positive experience

Our new volunteer manager, Aparna, discusses why volunteering is so important in building a stronger community sharing the vision of ending street homelessness

Making volunteering a fulfilling and positive experience

Can you introduce yourself and your professional background? 

I started as a volunteer in 2008 when I first moved to this country. I was looking for work and applying for jobs, and had a background in publications in India. During an interview, the interviewer suggested I try some volunteering to gain experience here, so I joined an organisation that helps people obtain volunteer placements, and they soon hired me for a paid position, helping people through the process I had experienced. I learned everything from scratch. Since then, I have really enjoyed working with volunteers and helping people get the placement that is best suited for them; I have developed volunteer programmes, practices, and procedures. Understanding what makes a good volunteering experience is a big learning experience, and an exciting one. 

What do you enjoy most about working with volunteers? 

One of the main reasons I love working with volunteers is that I understand that everyone has a reason for volunteering, the same way I did when I first started out. I make sure volunteers and teams alike ask themselves what it is they want to achieve. Corporate groups volunteering with us gain experience of working in a team as well as leadership skills, and empathy and compassion towards different issues and causes. It’s real life and career experience. Young people, or someone at the start of their career, can learn things that they don’t teach in schools – for example I worked with someone who was training to be a doctor, but charitable work taught essential caring skills that aren’t in textbooks. I really enjoy seeing people grow in their roles too; sometimes people will arrive with little confidence, and then build it while volunteering.  

Aside from the life and career experience you’ve just mentioned, what do you believe to be the other benefits to volunteering? 

The personal and professional development shouldn’t be underestimated. These placements provide the opportunity to integrate into the community in a way that can be difficult otherwise, especially in London. You can really feel part of something positive and develop a good understanding of culture and people in our communities. Particularly in Thames Reach roles, there is a good opportunity to empathise with people.  

Can you tell us about the volunteering roles currently available at Thames Reach? 

The most popular and always in demand are outreach roles. Thames Reach are best known for outreach across London, and these late-night shifts always need volunteers to support staff in finding and recording people sleeping rough, before helping them off the streets. People should commit to one shift per month, but are welcome to do more if they would like.  

In our Employment and Skills team, we are looking for volunteers to assist the process of guiding people through the process of getting back into work and identifying strengths and weaknesses. For these roles we require a commitment of at least three months, ideally six months, as the people we work with need consistency, and we need people who are passionate about helping others and contributing to our vision of ending street homelessness.  

Larger groups such as corporates are always welcome; we see them regularly returning to get involved with projects such as gardening at our hostels.  

What are your plans for the volunteering programme? 

I will be making sure we are able to define the volunteer journey, making outcomes easier to identify and making a strong connection between the team and the volunteer so that everyone is gaining what they need from the placement. I will also be looking to increase the number of volunteers we have and look at pathways into employment from our volunteers especially those with lived experience.

I am working on making sure all application forms are digital and fully accessible, while also acknowledging that digital literacy is not a given, so there will be support available to make sure anyone who wants to volunteer with us is able to make that application.  

 I will also be working collaboratively with peers in the charity sector to raise the profile of the benefits of volunteering with us, with the ultimate aim of increasing our volunteer numbers and ensuring a positive and fulfilling experience for all involved.