What is it like to do a student placement with Thames Reach?

Maja discusses what she has learned during her social work student placement

What is it like to do a student placement with Thames Reach?

“During the pandemic I did some work at a food bank in Camberwell, and while volunteering I realised that I wanted to shift my career towards helping people. I was walking past Thames Reach’s Camberwell office all the time, so knew where they were, and decided to do some more research to find out the kind of support that they offer people. After my time at the food bank, I had started my degree in social work, so for my placement I applied with Thames Reach, and was told that I might be a good fit for the TST* [Tenancy Sustainment Team].”

A day in the life of a social work placement

“I would always start the day before, preparing for the next morning’s visits. As a volunteer, I didn’t have my own caseload, but I assisted a support worker in the team, so would be making to visits to people across London, in the form of welfare checks, or other things they might need. I would organise this in such a way that manages my time well, for instance I would try to get to see everyone living in South West London in one day. Usually, my day consisted of visits in the morning, then catching up with admin in the afternoon, either in the office or at home. Flexibility is key for the role, as sometimes visits don’t go exactly to plan, and I might be needed to help out with other issues during welfare checks. For example, I might spend an hour on the phone to the gas company for someone we support, other times I’ll be told that they are fine, and it’s only a short visit! If things don’t go to plan, it can be a bit of a challenge, but there have been times when I’m doing my admin later on and am actually able to identify the progress someone is making.

“The element I’ve enjoyed the most has been meeting the people Thames Reach work with. I spent the early part of my placement observing support workers and the reality of homelessness; it has been so inspiring to see how the academic work I’ve been doing for my degree comes together with practical experiences. I could notice myself becoming more confident as the time went on!”

Challenges of the work

“I was definitely quite naive in the beginning; I didn’t realise how complex the transition from homelessness to recovery and independent living can be. I thought that housing equals recovery, but there’s so much more that goes on in terms of supporting people when they’ve been traumatised. Playing a small part in showing people that they deserve a higher standard of living has been rewarding.”

Advice to future volunteers

“To anyone thinking of doing this kind of volunteering, I’d say go for it! Especially if it is part of a placement, as it can really boost the theoretical and academic side of social work. It’s really important to be proactive; showing people that you are there to help is really important, as is a willingness to get involved with anything that needs doing. Get as much experience as you can! As well as my work with TST, I was able to visit other projects such as hostels, to see the bigger picture of the different ways in which people are supported. I’m hoping to come back to London once I graduate to continue doing this work, so watch this space!”

*The Tenancy Sustainment Team (TST) are a vital part of Thames Reach’s recovery work, helping people who have had experience sleeping rough to move towards independent living, with support packages that help people in their homes once they have been housed. This support can help with issues around mental health, employment, physical health and addiction. 

Check out our Volunteering page for a range of ways you can support Thames Reach.


How women are supported through trauma-informed hostels

Area Manager Bethan discusses the experiences of women in hostels

How women are supported through trauma-informed hostels

Bethan is Thames Reach’s Area Manager for Hostels. With years of experience in key work with people facing multiple disadvantages, she discusses the barriers women come up against when moving through the homelessness pathways in hostels.

“We see lots of people move through our hostels, all with different stories and histories, and the demand is only getting higher. Although, there are much fewer women in our hostels than men, and there always have been. It’s important not to generalise, but we have fewer women residents in our hostels as they tend to stay as long as possible with their support networks, even if they are challenging, precarious or dangerous environments.

“It can take longer to build relationships with women in the hostel setting, sometimes as a result of the traumatic experiences they have faced before arriving. When someone we’re working with has already been through significant trauma and abuse, staying in one place can be difficult and anxiety-inducing, and it’s not uncommon for people to move between hostels if their needs aren’t being met. We have to look at what their particular needs are, and we help them make and attend appointments such as physical and sexual health care.

Key workers have to be flexible and creative when building trusting relationships; back when I was a key worker, I was supporting one woman who wouldn’t even answer the door when she first arrived, which I totally understood, so I’d just leave her a cup of tea outside every morning, and popped a note under her door to let her know I would be available when she’s ready to talk.

“There is a lot of discussion about gendered spaces at the moment, and while they certainly have benefits, trauma-informed spaces are arguably more important. At Thames Reach, all our hostels are trauma-informed, which means that we support people in a way that acknowledges and works with trauma, rather than against or despite of it. This is essential in helping people move on in a way that makes sense for them.”



How does the new South East London outreach team work?

Ryan, lead worker in our new South East Regional Outreach team, discusses the work being done to end street homelessness across the South East of the city

How does the new South East London outreach team work?

Thames Reach are the providers of the new South East London Regional Outreach team, which covers four boroughs within the South East of the city to help people off the streets and identify the support they need to move on from street homelessness. The team’s lead worker, Ryan, tells us about the work he does.

“The South East Regional Outreach Team (SEROT) is a new service that was put into place after London Street Rescue ended. This was the result of the decision for outreach services to be commissioned by local authorities. SEROT operates in four boroughs: Greenwich, Bromley, Lewisham, and Bexley. We get our referrals from colleagues in the Rapid Response Team (RRT), who respond to referrals made via Streetlink.

“No two days are ever the same, but an average day for me is an early start, checking for any referrals that were made overnight by the RRT and beginning welfare checks on anyone that is out rough sleeping, and working with them to resolve their homelessness. Working with people we have already made contact with, who are now in temporary accommodation, is a big part of what we do, as we discuss and plan their next steps with them. The rest of my work time is spent on casework and other admin related to the people I’m working with.

“In my borough, the people we work with are mostly white British males with substance support needs. This isn’t the case across South East London, as other boroughs work with a high number of people from other areas, with limited recourse to benefits. We fortunately have a strong working relationship with local drug and alcohol services, who will join an outreach shift when I am working with someone that would benefit from a visit.

“In South East London, I think we have all noticed a rise in the number of people rough sleeping for the first time, and I’m sure this goes for the rest of the country. The challenge is finding affordable, sustainable, decent living in London where most parts of the city are unaffordable.

“It has definitely been positive to work alongside colleagues that I worked with in London Street Rescue. This has meant that people who have been receiving support with us for a sustained period have not been affected by the changes.”

Read the Thames Reach Annual Review 2021-22

We’re delighted to publish a review of the work we’ve been doing over the past year

Read the Thames Reach Annual Review 2021-22

Today, we are officially launching our Thames Reach Annual Review 2021-22, highlighting the impact of the work our organisation has been doing between April 2021 and March 2022. The new document, with introductions by Chair of the Board Stephen Howard and Chief Executive Bill Tidnam, goes into detail on how our various services have ben helping homeless and vulnerable people across London, and features case studies and interviews and with staff members, volunteers, and with the people using our services.

For all this and more, take a look at the Thames Reach Annual Review 2021-22.

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.


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.”

Thames Reach Volunteer Fair

Our volunteer fair on 1st November offers you the chance to learn more about volunteering with Thames Reach

Thames Reach Volunteer Fair

At Thames Reach, we’re looking for volunteers to help us deliver vital services across London to help end street homelessness. This includes working with our outreach teams to help people off the streets, helping out in local communities to prevent people from becoming homeless, and supporting our Employment and Skills team as they provide job and training opportunities for the people we work with.

If you want to learn new skills, get workplace experience, and make a real difference to the lives of people experiencing homelessness, then come to our volunteer fair.

Hosted by our Volunteering and Employment and Skills teams, this event will offer insight and opportunities for getting started as a Thames Reach volunteer.

Tuesday 1st November 2022
11.00am — 3.00pm
Employment Academy, 29 Peckham Road, London SE5 8UA

To book your place, please visit: Thames Reach Volunteer Fair Tickets, Tue 1 Nov 2022 at 11:00 | Eventbrite

Deptford Reach wins at London Homelessness Awards

Deptford Reach’s work preventing homelessness in Lewisham has been recognised at the London Homelessness Awards

Deptford Reach wins at London Homelessness Awards

Three projects from across London have been named as winners of the prestigious London Homelessness Awards for 2022.  They will share cash prizes totalling £60,000. The London Homelessness Awards are sponsored by London Housing Foundation, London Housing Directors, The Mayor of London, Crisis and Shelter.

The prize winners are: Greenwich Winter Night Shelter, Pathway Partnership Programme, and our Deptford Reach project, which has won a £10,000 prize at the award ceremony which took place at North London’s Union Chapel on 12 October. The awards were presented by Deputy Mayor Tom Copley.

Jordan McTigue, lead manager at Deptford Reach, says: “Winning this award means so much for both the people we work with, and us as a team, and will be a real boost to the work we are doing in the community. The prize money will go directly towards helping people facing homelessness, allowing us to reach them before they come to the streets. Being able to continue helping people where they are, through food banks, faith hubs and other community spots, is so essential as we start to face the reality of the cost-of-living crisis.”

Margaret Malcolm works with the London Housing Foundation and assessed all of the applicants.  She said: “With a strong field of over 30 applicants, each of these projects did well to get to the last six and are doing excellent work.  The presentations and stories they told were very powerful.   The winners all provide high quality services to a wide range of clients and showcase just how vibrant and innovative the homelessness sector in London continues to be.”

Bill Tidnam, Chief Executive at Thames Reach, said: “We welcome the London Homelessness Award’s recognition of the Deptford Reach community project.  If we are to meet our ambition of ending street homelessness we need many more services like this, which aim to intervene to find people at risk and work with them to help them stay in accommodation.”

Deptford Reach has recently expanded its service from a day centre to community outreach, working with people in Deptford and the surrounding Lewisham community to prevent homelessness, offer advice and guidance and signpost to other services. They do this in hubs across the borough such as food banks and faith centres, after finding that the stigma of homelessness and its surrounding issues mean that people are more likely to engage with support where they are, rather than coming to a day centre. The £10,000 prize will help Deptford Reach to continue this work and reach more people, as we face the additional challenge of the cost-of-living crisis.

A new government strategy for rough sleeping: can we end street homelessness for good?

The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities have released their new strategy for rough sleeping

A new government strategy for rough sleeping: can we end street homelessness for good?

Thames Reach welcomes the publication by the DLUHC (Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) today of the new Rough Sleeping Strategy: Ending Rough Sleeping for Good.

The strategy reiterates and expands upon the government’s commitment to ending rough sleeping, and when it cannot, ensuring that it is rare, brief, and non-recurrent.  The adoption of this commitment, developed with the Centre for Homelessness Impact (CHI), and charities and local authorities through the Rough Sleeping Advisory panel, moves the objective of ending rough sleeping from a lofty ambition to a practical and measurable goal.

This is accompanied by the commitment of funding over the next three years, building on the settlement following last autumn’s spending review. It will provide the stability necessary for organisations like Thames Reach to develop new and existing services to meet the many challenges set out in the strategy. 

We particularly welcome the investment in the different stages of our work: prevention, involving identifying and supporting people before they end up on the streets; response, working quickly to find people who are sleeping rough and get them to a safe place; and recovery, using accommodation and support models that enable people to move away from street homelessness. Working across prevention, response and recovery is central to Thames Reach’s vision of ending street homelessness, and are practices we know to be effective.

Alongside this, there is a focus on bringing government and services together to make sure that everyone is focused on ending homelessness. We need to make sure that prison is not a route onto the street, that health services work to ensure a health crisis does not lead to homelessness, and crucially that the transition away from local authority care is not the first step in a chain of events that lead to rough sleeping.

half the people on London’s streets are non-UK nationals and we welcome plans to make it much easier to establish people’s status and also to review the approach to accommodating people seeking asylum which can lead to people sleeping rough, particularly in London.

There is much work to be done, but it is crucial that the new administration builds on the lead provided by this strategy and the successful work of the last three years.

Thames Reach ‘highly commended’ in Homeless Link Excellence Awards

We are pleased to have our prevention work ‘highly commended’ in the Homeless Link Excellence Awards

Thames Reach ‘highly commended’ in Homeless Link Excellence Awards

The annual Homeless Link Excellence Awards celebrate the best work being done to support people experiencing homelessness.

This year the panel received over 90 entries across the four categories and an expert judging panel whittled it down to a shortlist of 21 impressive entries.

The shortlisted entries included projects supporting people who are LGBTQ+, victims of modern slavery, those leaving hospital, and needing to access adult social care, as well as innovative emergency and move-on accommodation solutions, support to get people into employment and much more. The wide range of people supported by the projects illustrates the diversity of our members across the country and how much the sector has to be proud of.

Thames Reach are proud to have been ‘highly commended’ in the Prevention into Action category, an award celebrating services and projects committed to preventing homelessness from occurring in the first place, or are preventing repeated periods of rough sleeping or homelessness from happening.

To read more about our commitment to preventing homelessness, please read our Business Plan 2022-2025, which outlines the ways in which we are working to end street homelessness by ensuring it doesn’t occur in the first place.