What is it like to take part in a Challenge Event?

We spoke with Jenny, who ran the Hackney Half Marathon in 2019 in aid of Thames Reach. Now that the weather is improving and events are opening up again, we asked her how she kept up her motivation for this fantastic race.

What is it like to take part in a Challenge Event?

Which challenge did you take part in, and how did you prepare?

I ran the Hackney Half Marathon in May 2019, in aid of Thames Reach’s work. I trained regularly for several months building up to it, increasing my running distances gradually up to around ten or eleven miles. The run on the day is always easier because you’ve got all the support and buzz of the event, which helped me to make it those last few miles on the day!


What inspires you about Thames Reach’s work? 

I’ve been an outreach volunteer with the Rapid Response Team for more than two years now and so I’ve seen first-hand the importance of Thames Reach’s work in supporting people into accommodation and helping them to rebuild their lives. I really appreciate how Thames Reach approaches each client as an individual and without judgement, and the passion that the staff have for the work that they do.

What did you enjoy about the challenge, and would you recommend it to others?

I would definitely recommend the event; there was an amazing buzz on the day in the festival village and all the way round the course. My lasting memory of the day was just after mile 8 when my legs were starting to get a bit tired, I met two women (just members of the public) who were giving out sweets and cheering everyone who passed with incredible enthusiasm! I think that encounter really captured the spirit of the event, it had such a great community feel and positive spirit. It was amazing to be a part of it.

If you’ve been inspired by Jenny’s story and are passionate about ending street homelessness, check out our challenge events and register your interest today. Upcoming scheduled events include the London Duathlon and the London to Brighton Bike Ride, both taking place in September 2021.

Traineeships – Interview with one of our graduates

The Thames Reach Traineeship Scheme is now open for applications – we interviewed Ross, who graduated from the programme in April 2019 and is now Senior Practitioner in the Rapid Response Team

Traineeships – Interview  with one of our graduates

The Thames Reach traineeship programme provides career pathways into the homeless sector. It offers participants the opportunity to gain the skills and experience needed to work for Thames Reach and within the broader sector. The traineeship programme actively encourages those with a previous history of homelessness to apply, as well as people with little or no experience of the homeless sector. Passion, commitment and empathy towards homeless people along with good administration skills are required to succeed. The programme has seen students and tutors alike incredibly pleased with the experience and future prospects.

Ross Lambert is one of the graduates, who got a job as Assistant Support Worker at Croydon Reach after undertaking his first placement, and 10 months later is now Senior Practitioner for the Rapid Response Team. We spoke to him when he graduated in April 2019.

What’s your background and what attracted you to the programme?
I actually had a very different career before starting the traineeship; I was a glass designer for ten years, and although I really enjoyed it, I wanted to do something that helped people. After a short career break, I thought about how I might be able to do this and did some research. Spending some time travelling confirmed that I wanted to do a job that made a difference in the community. I knew little about what support workers did but knew that it was a step in the right direction for me.

What did you do during your time on the traineeship?
The work we did while training was really close to what we’d be doing as Assistant Support Workers once we finish, so it was good to learn first-hand from the start. I shadowed the Croydon Reach outreach team and followed their work with other agencies.

What did you enjoy the most?
The fact that I can see tangible results from my day-to-day work, and that’s something I’ll continue to enjoy as I settle in my new role and progress throughout my career.

Who have you worked with so far?
I had no experience working with vulnerable people before now but working with service users has been a real highlight, it truly feels like a two-way street, we’re inspiring each other and working collaboratively.

What are your plans for the future?
I got the job at Croydon Reach the same day as my second placement was due to start, so I’m still very new and enjoying learning everything I can about the role. I’m happy to have the experience and use the skills I learned in the traineeship for real-life situations.


A Day in the Life of a Support Worker

Jamie Shovlin, Support Worker for the Rapid Response team, discusses his daily routine at Thames Reach

A Day in the Life of a Support Worker

Jamie Shovlin, Support Worker, Rapid Response 

“I normally start around 6pm with shift planning, which I do from home. This involves looking at new referrals that we’ve received through Streetlink for the areas of the city I’ll be covering that night. I’ll also check the previous night’s shift to see if there are any follow-up actions from that need to be factored into the shift. I’ll put the referrals into a plan on Google Maps and move them about to find a route that gets to as many people as possible on shift. Around 7:30/8pm, I’ll pick up my volunteer and head out, using a Zipcar located close to home.

The most satisfying thing is ending people’s homelessness there and then on the night, on the street. In truth it may be ultimately very short-term as the challenges of keeping people from returning to the streets are many, but the immediate relief and people’s reactions to it are very satisfying. I also enjoy working with skilled, diligent and sensitive colleagues and volunteers, who give their time and energy to ending street homelessness. 

Perhaps the biggest challenge is engaging people who’ve been out on the streets for a long time. They may be sceptical about what you can offer, may have had bad experiences in the past with services, may be struggling with substance abuse and health issues. It’s difficult to build a bigger picture of the type of care and approach that might benefit the individual if they won’t engage with you on any level. But we try and work out the best way to offer that person support.

The work is fundamentally very independent in practice but only works in substance as part of a larger team. We put out a number of shifts each night across London and are in constant communication with each other whilst on shift. If one of us is in a difficult situation, there are a number of colleagues who can help. We often work directly with each other and talk over situations and exchanges that were challenging. Each worker has a different approach and will have different advice and support regarding each situation.

It starts with the planning, the layout and idea of the shift. After a while you get to know areas and are able to guess where and when people are most likely to be found. Then there’s searching for people and if finding them, working out the best form of support. Ideally we can take them to an emergency shelter but sometimes this isn’t possible, so we have to offer alternative support and reassurances that we are trying to help them away from the streets. I think trust is one of the biggest aspects of this work – the person you’re speaking with has to believe you have their best interests at heart. You have to clear and honest with people even if means delivering news they don’t want to hear. Then there’s the reporting of each shift and encounter which should be clear and concise, so that colleagues can see what work you have carried out and know what the next step of action is.

The scale and dedication of the outreach services makes Thames Reach unique. We’re covering such a large area with such a dedicated workforce. Colleagues are from a broad range of backgrounds, and that influences their connection to the work and how they do it. This contributes to the service’s dynamic and robustness and makes the challenging tasks at hand that much more achievable.”

Thames Reach are expanding and have roles available across London at a range of levels. Experience is not necessarily required as full training and support is provided. There are opportunities to work flexibly or part-time around other commitments, which allows a range of people with different experiences to work together to end street homelessness.