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.