Bill Tidnam speaks about rough sleeping stats in government panel discussion

Thames Reach Chief Executive, Bill Tidnam, spoke at the government’s ‘Delivering Together to End Rough Sleeping’ event on 1 March 2022.

Bill Tidnam speaks about rough sleeping stats in government panel discussion

New figures released by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) show the numbers of people sleeping rough have fallen for the fourth year in a row, with a 9% decrease from this time last year. The whole of England saw this decrease, but it is estimated that the biggest drop in numbers was found in London, with around 10% fewer people than autumn 2020.

While these numbers are initially encouraging, an online event on 1 March chaired by Eddie Hughes MP stressed that there is more work to be done.

As part of this event, Thames Reach Chief Executive Bill Tidnam featured on the government’s ‘Delivering Together to End Rough Sleeping’ panel, alongside Eddie Hughes MP, Minister for Housing and Rough Sleeping; Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester; and Kath Wallace, Divisional Manager of Liverpool City Council. They discussed the recent statistics, with all panellists agreeing on the importance of prevention services and suitable housing solutions to not only ensure that numbers continue to decrease, but that we can intervene and support people before the traumatic experience of street homelessness occurs.

During the panel, Bill was asked about best practices for supporting people with complex needs, asserting the importance of patience, flexibility, and working with an individual to see what routes and services are best for them. The need to help people with no recourse to public funds was also a key part of the discussion, with everyone celebrating the success of ‘Everyone In’, viewing it as a framework to take forward in the mission to end rough sleeping.

Kath Wallace and Andy Burnham also spoke about community efforts, that rough sleeping is an issue that can be resolved through communities being strengthened as well as specialist input. At Thames Reach, we know the value of communities, not only in terms of helping an individual away from street homelessness, but in how hubs and groups can be excellent ways to work with people at risk of street homelessness, to engage with them outside of traditional services or buildings that may be a daunting prospect for some.

Francis’s story

After finding himself homeless at the height of the pandemic, Francis has been housed and supported through our PLACE team

Francis’s story

Francis was in hospital undergoing an oper­ation on an infected leg when the friend he’d been staying with told him he needed to find somewhere else to live.

On leaving hospital and returning to the flat, Fran­cis found that his friend had changed the locks and he was left sitting in the road on his crutches. This was during the summer of 2020, during the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, and Francis had nowhere else to go.

He initially spent some time moving between dif­ferent hostels before coming into contact with our PLACE team — Pan London Accommodation & Community Engagement — who work with people who have been staying in temporary accommoda­tion and have been referred to Thames Reach by a local authority. The team helps people to access private rented accommodation across London, and provides initial support once the client has moved in.

PLACE were able to help Francis find a flat of his own, as well as helping him to furnish it, sort out bills and administrative issues, and provide further support to get him back on his feet.

‘When I first moved in here I didn’t have a bed, furniture, a washing machine, nothing,’ he says. ‘They’ve helped me get all of these things, though. I’ve got my own home now, which I’ve never really had before. Now my children can come to see me, my son comes to stay with me on weekends. That didn’t happen when I was in hostels.’

While Francis is still troubled by his leg, he’s recovered enough to work part time now, and mentally is in the best place he’s been in for a long time. His goal now is to learn a new trade.

Interview: Addressing healthcare inequalities in our hostels

Our interview with Yves, manager of the Robertson Street hostel accommodating residents over the age of 40 with mixed support needs, discusses health inequalities among residents

Interview: Addressing healthcare inequalities in our hostels

Health inequalities are one of the main concerns for Thames Reach in our work to end street homelessness. We spoke with Yves, who manages our Robertson Street hostel in south London, on the work they are doing to ensure more people are getting access to the support they need.

Hi Yves, can you introduce us to your service?

Robertson Street is located in Lambeth, south London, and is what you would call a ‘first stage’ hostel, meaning we can get referrals from a range of sources through Lambeth’s Vulnerable Adults Pathway. We have a capacity for 42 residents and ideally each resident’s length of stay is between six months and two years.

What kind of support do residents have access to during that time?

We are an accommodation-based service to  people over 40, so provide access and signposting to support. We want to help residents to be able to move on to independent or semi-independent living following a stay here. We’re part of the Lambeth Vulnerable Adults Pathway, and accommodate residents with a range of different and complex needs. These support needs may have previously contributed to their homelessness or not being able to maintain tenancies or other forms of accommodation. Other hostels in the borough work with different age groups, which is why we specialise in over 40s. We do have a couple of people under 40 but this is because their complex physical, or other, needs cannot be met in other services.

What is your approach to addressing healthcare inequalities at Robertson Street?  

We strive to counteract inequalities and promote inclusion. Inequalities take several forms when we are working with people who have experienced street homelessness, as we must support people to bridge these inequalities, mostly in terms of healthcare. One of the things we do is work with the pathway manager and other external partnerships in order for people to move into needs-based accommodation. It is paramount that an individual can access the support they need. We have a nurse and GP clinic once a week at Robertson Street, as well as a prescribing clinic, and we have very good connections to community mental health services. We really make health a priority. Initial assessment work is carried out in-house when residents first move in, then we can signpost to physical, mental and other medical advice externally, meaning they can continue to get support in the community after they move on. We support residents to attend appointments, working with partnership agencies and Groundswell. This level of encouragement and support enables a smoother move-on into the community when the time is right.

What challenges has your hostel faced during the pandemic?

The main challenges were the move-on pathway becoming less mobile than usual. The repercussion for move-on being unavailable was that we couldn’t move people into the hostel either, so incoming and outgoing options were very limited. Community services that we always promote were facing closures and limited availability, such as day centres, mental health support, drug and alcohol services and other community-based resources, so we had to try our best to keep up momentum and motivation for move-on. While moving services online to Zoom is a good way of keeping people safe, many residents have found this difficult to engage with. We have been keeping residents motivated that their move-on will be happening eventually and kept preparation going. As a team we’ve accomplished this really well, and have been able to keep morale up. Aside from our normal work we had to implement extra cleaning on-site, but it made a big difference; we reduced risk of infection by sanitising the building twice every shift and educating residents about social distancing, risk management and maintaining safe practices.

What positive outcomes have emerged from overcoming these challenges?

We have a great team with good adaptability who can deal with and are supportive of a range of needs. There is a good balance between experienced members of staff and enthusiasm of people who have recently come to work in the sector. I’m proud that we’ve been able to provide a consistent and continual service throughout the pandemic, which reflects the project and Thames Reach as an organisation; we haven’t had to defer anything. Anything that wasn’t available in the community we brought in; our next step is now integrating residents and services back into the community.

Deptford Reach hosts health and wellbeing day

On 12 August, Deptford Reach hosted a supportive health and wellbeing day for users of Thames Reach services

Deptford Reach hosts health and wellbeing day

On 12 August, in partnership with Lewisham council, Deptford Reach hosted a health and wellbeing day for members of the community and users of Thames Reach services. The invite was extended throughout the organisation as part of our ongoing commitment to bridging the inequality gap created by street homelessness.

While Deptford Reach is known to be a day centre hosting various activities for its visitors, since the pandemic the team have been extending their reach to ensure those in the wider community know about their resources and means of support. This has included outreach at Lewisham food banks.

The day involved drop-in services including COVID vaccinations, nurse appointments for general health checks, CGL (drug and alcohol support); Hep C, Hep B, HIV and syphilis testing with results given on the day; STI testing; advice and demonstrations for lateral flow testing, including handing out test kits on outreach; and information and advice on infection control.

It was a successful and positive event, ensuring people felt welcome and safe in Deptford Reach’s building, at the heart of the community. There will be more similar events in the future as part of the service’s focus on more outreach work. In the meantime the team facilitate regular GP and nurse appointments in the building, as well as supporting people to register with GPs in the community.

Sive O’Regan, inclusion health clinicial nurse specialist, said: “Really happy with today’s turn out for our point-of-care blood borne virus testing at Deptford Reach. A really well organised health promotion event that we thoroughly enjoyed being a part of and look forward to the next.”

Jordan McTigue, lead manager at Deptford Reach, said: “It can be difficult for people with experience of street homelessness, as well as those at risk of street homelessness, to access health services, so this is such an important day to get people engaged and get them vaccinated and protected against COVID-19, as well as providing resources and information to prevent ill health where possible.”


New rough sleeping figures: Why is street homelessness rising again?

Chief executive Bill Tidnam discusses the recent increase in numbers of people sleeping rough

New rough sleeping figures: Why is street homelessness rising again?

In the period since the start of the pandemic, reporting on numbers of people sleeping rough has been varied, often not taking into account the various ways individuals can be, or can find themselves, homeless. While the most recent CHAIN statistics signal that there has been another increase in people being made street homeless, Thames Reach chief executive Bill Tidnam explains that understanding the issues faced by people experiencing homelessness requires more than numbers.

“The 3% rise in numbers of people seen sleeping rough compares with a rise of 21% the previous year. We need to remember that this covers the first quarter of 2020/21, where a record number of people were experiencing street homelessness as a result of the economic impact of the first lockdown. These figures also tell us that there was an increase in numbers of people sleeping rough with no support needs and more younger people, which seems to represent this same group who would not ordinarily have slept rough.

“Fortunately we have seen a significant rise in funding for services working with people sleeping rough. The resulting increase in outreach activity has meant that more people have been seen and recorded by outreach workers, making the data more reliable.

“We do have significant concerns for the future though; the European Union Support Scheme, with its deadline at the end of June, means that the 20% of people seen rough sleeping who are from Central and Eastern Europe now have even more limited options. This also includes people who have been housed in temporary accommodation and hotels as a result of the pandemic, projects which now face closure.

“A lift in eviction bans has not resulted in an immediate increase in people sleeping rough, but the impact of this will take time to show, as will the end of increased Universal Credit payments in the autumn.

“The availability of short-term accommodation through the ‘Everyone In’ initiative has been welcome, but it does not remove the need for the sort of specialist, high-support-need settings that will help people come off the streets and rebuild their lives.  Our outreach teams desperately need access to emergency accommodation that is immediately available, where need can be quickly assessed and suitable options can be identified for the individual.

“There are many reasons why people become homeless, and the accommodation available when people are helped off the street must cater to their needs and provide the right environment to gain stability and establish long-term options. The street is not the best place to achieve this.”

Our commitment to non-UK nationals experiencing homelessness

The deadline for applying for settled status from the European Union Settlement Scheme has now passed, but with non-UK nationals making up half of people spotted sleeping rough, we must support vulnerable people away from street homelessness, regardless of where they come from.

Our commitment to non-UK nationals experiencing homelessness

Thames Reach will not normally withdraw a service from individuals because they do not have recourse to public funds. However, most of our residential services require residents to pay rent and service charge, the majority of which is normally paid through benefits, and non-payment of these charges will jeopardise the future of the service.  This means that we cannot routinely provide accommodation to people without recourse in most of our residential schemes.

In the case of vulnerable people, and those experiencing homelessness, who do not have recourse to public funds, we will seek to provide accurate advice, assistance and support, including advice and support around employment. We recognise that in many cases this support will include referral to a qualified specialist provider of immigration legal advice, as at Thames Reach we are not qualified to provide this advice internally.

Where users of residential services are responsible for rent and charges, they will need to be able to demonstrate how they will be able to pay before they move in. We will continue to advocate for a range of emergency provisions that will allow people who are sleeping rough, who do not have the means to pay for accommodation, access to short term shelter; this will allow more sufficient time to more effectively resolve their homelessness. During their time in this short-term accommodation, we can also provide support from different teams within Thames Reach and our partners, whether this is to resolve their immigration status, find employment, or voluntary reconnection to an appropriate country. This short-term accommodation could be specialist shelter accommodation, safe spaces in existing hostels, or other appropriate settings.  Access to this accommodation is limited and we will prioritise access on the basis of vulnerability in conjunction with commissioning authorities.

Where people who are living in Thames Reach-managed accommodation lose entitlement to support through public funds they will normally begin to accrue arrears.  When this occurs, managers are asked to look at each case on its own merits, looking particularly at the vulnerability and needs of the individual.  Options should include the use of local authority support, advice and support to access more appropriate accommodation, and referrals to specialist agencies and other charities, and welfare funding to support these courses of action.

Thames Reach are committed to providing support to non-UK nationals facing street homelessness in London. We will continue to publicly highlight particular challenges faced by vulnerable people and those experiencing homelessness, who do not have recourse to public funds.

Thames Reach on new rough sleeping investments: don’t forget prevention

Following the government’s announcement of additional funding for rough sleeping services, Thames Reach welcome the commitment but stress that investment in prevention is essential to our work towards ending street homelessness

Thames Reach on new rough sleeping investments: don’t forget prevention

At Thames Reach, we welcome the new RSI (Rough Sleeping Initiative) funding provisions for rough sleeping services, with the government’s announcement last weekend that councils will receive a further £200million in this stage of their plan to support people experiencing rough sleeping. This is positive news that will help continue our efforts to reduce rough sleeping in London.  However while we welcome this investment we believe that there is an urgent need to review the national Rough Sleeping Strategy, learning from the lessons of the pandemic, both positive and negative.  Alongside this we would like to see a return to multi-year funding that can provide the sort of stability that will help us feel confident that we can offer lasting solutions to street homelessness, and help people along the journey of moving on from the streets, which only starts once an individual has been housed.

As part of this we would like to see an increased focus on the prevention stage of street homelessness, working with people to divert them away from the street and into more secure accommodationThe last year has shown how precariously many people are housed, and highlighted the need to intervene earlier. We know that street homelessness is a huge cause of trauma and anxiety, and causes lasting damage, and it is crucial that we are able to work effectively to prevent this.

Any revised strategy will need to address the needs of people without recourse to public funds, particularly those with complex support needs.  Without this help for people who are currently largely ineligible, street homelessness will continue and numbers will increase.

How are Thames Reach helping people move on from street homelessness in the City of London?

Thames Reach took over the City of London outreach service in November 2020, and the collaborative work taking place in the square mile is allowing the team to support people sleeping rough in the most effective way possible. We spoke with lead manager Rowan Wyllie about this ongoing work.

How are Thames Reach helping people move on from street homelessness in the City of London?

How has the City of London outreach been going since Thames Reach took over the service in November 2020? Are there any experiences or outcomes unique to your team?

I think that it has been going really well! It has been exciting to join a team where we can really build the team from the ground up. We are fully recruited with seven members of staff, so now we can look at how best to utilise our resources. It is only a square mile but there is a lot to do!

Something that is unique to the City of London is that it is not an area where many people actually live. The residential population of the city is around 9,000 so it may not necessarily be somewhere that people have lived for a long time or have links to. With this in mind we work hard to support people back to their borough of local connection or set up new foundations in other areas.

We also enjoy many partnerships with external agencies supporting us in our outreach shifts. Weekly we go out with Doctors of the World, RAMHP (mental health assessments provided by the East London Foundation Trust), the Parkguard, Adult Social Care and there is also a new outreach psychotherapist provided by Providence Row. This amount of specialised support has been invaluable in helping people access healthcare quickly and safely, which can often be a barrier in helping them off the streets.

You’ve worked in various teams at Thames Reach before leading the City of London outreach team; does your approach differ at all to elsewhere in the organisation?

I started in Thames Reach working in the Social Impact Bond (SIB) team, working with people in Camden and Islington with complex needs. This gave me a good experience of how we can engage with people with complex needs, providing a personalised service. Especially helping those who may have experienced homelessness for a number of years and have become disenfranchised with services.

Now I am in the City, I am able to see the similarities in the approaches of the previous teams I have worked in and use them to our strengths in developing our outreach team. In the City one of the sections of our cohort are people who have been experiencing long-term street homelessness, who may find it difficult to engage with mainstream services, similar to those in the SIB cohort. We also work with those who may be new to rough sleeping or ‘transient’ through the City, and this element reminds me of some of the prevention work I was involved with in my role in the Greenwich Navigators team, working closely with external agencies to maintain engagement with services in order to access or sustain accommodation.

It is great to be at the start of the City Outreach contract and to think of how we can use not only my experiences of working in other teams, but also drawing on the strengths of the team as a whole and their experience of working in the sector. Everyone has their own background to bring to the team and it has created a very diverse group with a shared determination for the new project, which is very exciting!

Which other teams in Thames Reach are you working closely with to help people leave the streets?

It has been really helpful for the team and especially new members of staff to be around other Thames Reach outreach teams in our new office to discuss ideas and approaches. With the transient nature of people in City who may have come from other boroughs, it’s really helpful to be based in a hub of other outreach services. Even though we may be supporting someone who has crossed over to another borough, team members from those boroughs may be sitting next to one another – which can make communication much easier!

With the current need to support those who are housed in emergency accommodation, we have been doing a lot of work helping people gain employment if they are not eligible for benefits in the UK. Luckily, the Employment Academy have been supporting us greatly with these cases and we are now seeing more people we work with access employment, now that lockdown is easing, and businesses are recruiting.

As a new service to Thames Reach we are establishing links and pathways for clients to make the most of the other teams in the organisation. We are looking to actively refer people to the Private Sector Lettings team so those who are ready can access housing in the privately rented sector. With general tenancy sustainment support needed as well to make sure that the housing solutions we create are long-term, we will be also referring to the TST PRS [Private Rental Sector] teams at Thames Reach to make sure that people we work with remain supported through moving on, which is a big change to adapt to.

How do you see the service developing, and what are you looking forward to?

Despite the workload that goes in to setting up a new service, I enjoy the early stages of a project! The process of getting a team together, setting goals, and thinking about what works well and what may need some change is a welcomed challenge. Now we have the team recruited and targets set, it is now time to keep focused and moving forward.

I’m looking forward to the next few months and supporting everyone who has come in under ‘Everyone In’ and SWEP (Severe Weather Emergency Protocol) over winter and helping support them into longer-term accommodation with appropriate support. I am also looking forward to the challenge of working to reduce the amount of long-term rough sleepers in City as a whole. We have had some really positive outcomes this year so far in this area. I definitely recognise and appreciate all of the hard work from various teams and professionals that came before us. This has led up to the point of people with complex needs finally accessing accommodation. I am hoping to continue with this progress and see more of the positive changes in the City cohort as a whole.

In terms of development, it seems like the City team keeps growing! We will be providing in-reach support with two dedicated support workers who will be based at the hotels where our emergency accommodation is. With more members of staff, we have more dedicated time with each individual, and therefore provide intensive support that may not always be possible for outreach services.

In our monthly street counts we have been seeing reductions in the number of people sleeping rough, so I am hoping that we will be ready to face the challenge. I am positive that we seem to be going in the right direction overall.

London Assembly report on ‘Everyone In’ highlights Thames Reach’s work

The cross-party London Assembly Housing Committee have released their report on ‘Five Steps to Build on ‘Everyone In’ in London’, highlighting Thames Reach’s work with people experiencing street homelessness.

London Assembly report on ‘Everyone In’ highlights Thames Reach’s work

The London Assembly Housing Committee has released its report on ‘Five Steps to Build on Everyone In in London’. It takes a thorough look at the current landscape of rough sleeping in London, and the legacy left behind by the ‘Everyone In’ initiative. Highlighting that rough sleeping in London has increased by 170% in the last decade, the committee has produced at set of recommendations for the Mayor of London and government alike in order to reduce the devastating impact of street homelessness on people’s lives.

The cross-party Housing Committee examines matters relating to housing in London and takes a lead on scrutiny of the Mayor’s Housing Strategy.

The report takes a close look at numbers of people spotted rough sleeping in each quarter of the year, and breaks down these statistics to understand more about the people behind the numbers: their demographics, their support needs, and what brought them to the streets. This report has a particular focus on the first three months of the year, when the economic and social impact of the first lockdown manifested in an unprecedented increase in the numbers of people seen sleeping on the streets.

The report also deals with the response to this, particularly the provision of temporary accommodation (the ‘Everyone In’ initiative), and the Greater London Authority (GLA) and charity response to this.

Audrey, a Thames Reach support worker at Deptford Reach who was seconded to one of the hotels we ran during ‘Everyone In’, is interviewed on page 18 of the report:

“While supporting clients in the hotel, I was able to see that clients engage more with support staff than they do while working at the day centre. A client that I had difficulty engaging with before COVID was identified by the London Street Rescue team as a rough sleeper. The client had no identification, no bank account, and no job. The client was in the hotel from April to September. I met him in the hotel, and he engaged with me rather quickly. After completing an assessment with him, and understanding his predicament, I was able to support him to obtain an ID, a bank account, and Universal Credit. Currently, the client is living in private rented sector accommodation.

Working with the client helped him to realise that he neglected himself and had not taken care of himself properly. He told me that he would “take care of myself now,” and this goes to show how much he has learned from his experience rough sleeping.”

At Thames Reach, we find it encouraging that the Plan Points stated at the end of the report are already very much engrained in Thames Reach’s mission of ending street homelessness, in particular the cross-sector collaboration and the tailored solutions for people with high support needs, which we outlined in our recent statement outlining our vision for 2021.

Thames Reach have seen that people have continued to come onto the streets since the first lockdown, and while ‘Everyone In’ has ensured that the first group of people experiencing homelessness were temporarily housed and provided with support from our teams such as Private Sector Lettings (PSL), the people we work with are not a static population, and that the need for effective prevention work is greater than ever.

Traineeship Programme 2022 open for applications

The Thames Reach Traineeship Programme 2022 is now open for applications until 13 February

Traineeship Programme 2022 open for applications

The 2022 Thames Reach Traineeship programme is now open for applications until 13 February. The programme provides a career pathway into the homelessness sector, offering participants with the opportunity to gain the skills and experience needed to work for Thames Reach and within the sector more broadly.

The programme runs for 12 months from May 2022, split between classroom training and two six month work placements at a Thames Reach project, such as a hostel or a day centre. People with a previous history of homelessness are particularly encouraged to apply — 21% of our current staff have previously experienced homelessness, and many started out on their career through the traineeship programme. People with little or no experience of the homelessness sector are also encouraged to apply. Passion, commitment and empathy towards the people using our services, along with good administration skills, are required to succeed on the progamme, which has been successfully starting people off on new careers for many years now. Last year, 90% of those who enrolled went on to secure permanent jobs in the homelessness sector.

You can also learn more by reading our interview with previous Traineeship Programme graduate Ross, who is now a manager within Thames Reach’s Rapid Response Team. You can also read Laura’s account of a day in the life of a trainee.

You can download the job advert, role profile and application form below.

Please send completed application forms, by 13 February, to:

Application Form – Traineeship 2022

Role Profile – Traineeship 2022

Job Advert – Traineeship 2022