Severe Weather Emergency Protocol Update

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has activated the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) for the first time this winter

Severe Weather Emergency Protocol Update

This week, 27 November – 1 December, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan activated the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) for the first time this winter, instructing councils across the capital to provide extra shelter for people sleeping rough. This decision comes as temperatures dropped below zero degrees, posing increased risks to those sleeping rough on the streets.

In response, our outreach teams have been actively working to ensure that everyone has a place to stay away from the freezing temperatures. 

“We encourage members of the public to make referrals of anyone they see sleeping rough to Streetlink, who contact our outreach teams directly and quickly. During SWEP we put out additional outreach shifts, so that anticipated increased demand can be met.”  

– Thames Reach Director of Services

As we navigate through the winter, we will continue to find the fastest routes away from the streets for the people we support, prioritising safety during extreme weather conditions. 

It is important to recognise that, while SWEP provides a vital immediate response to help those sleeping rough, it does not address the root causes of rough sleeping. A more comprehensive approach is required, involving tailored support and assistance to address the complex issues individuals sleeping on the street face. 

Learn more about the projects and services run by Thames Reach helping to end rough sleeping in London: 


Thames Reach statement on the Home Secretary’s recent comments about rough sleeping

At Thames Reach, we do not believe that living on the streets is a “lifestyle choice”

Thames Reach statement on the Home Secretary’s recent comments about rough sleeping

Thames Reach statement on the Home Secretary’s recent comments about rough sleeping

10th November 2023

At Thames Reach, we do not believe that living on the streets is a “lifestyle choice”. Rough sleeping is a complex problem, and while the roots and solutions of this problem are not purely related to the housing market, there are particular pressures on rented accommodation which have led to a recent increase in street homelessness, and which make it more difficult to resolve. Criminalising people for their homelessness is not a solution.

The most recent annual statistics of people rough sleeping in London revealed a 21% increase in people sleeping rough in the capital from last year, exposing the real impact of not only the cost-of-living and housing crises, but also tighter immigration and asylum restrictions post-Brexit, as well as the impact of rushed changes to the asylum system. They represent a huge 250% increase on the figure for 2010. Meanwhile, research by Homeless Link has found there has been a 24% decrease in the number of supported housing beds available to help people move off the streets.

We believe that labelling sleeping rough as a “lifestyle choice”for people forced to sleep on the streets will impact the health and wellbeing of vulnerable people, while doing nothing to address the true causes of rough sleeping.

Instead we should work harder to prevent people needing to sleep rough in the first place, and to make sure that there are quick and effective routes off the streets for anyone who finds themselves in this position. We’d like to see the Government focus on measures that increase the support options available for people to find accommodation, and address the issues that lead people to be forced to sleep rough.

Home Office acceleration of asylum claims leading to a fivefold increase in rough sleeping

Thames Reach is concerned that the recent Home Office acceleration of asylum claims is leading to an increase in the number of people rough sleeping in London

Home Office acceleration of asylum claims leading to a fivefold increase in rough sleeping

Thames Reach is concerned that the recent Home Office acceleration of asylum claims is leading to an increase in the number of people rough sleeping in London – in direct contradiction to the Government’s commitment to end rough sleeping for good.

The Home Office has sped up the processing of asylum claims recently in an effort to reduce the backlog of applications. But due to short notice periods, and a lack of quick support available to access the help they are entitled to, we are worried that many of those granted leave to remain will be unable to find accommodation in the short amount of time provided and end up having to sleep on the streets.

Newly recognised refugees and asylum seekers receive a ‘notice to quit’ from Home Office accommodation once their claim is approved – previously they had 28 days to find alternative accommodation, but by the time they receive the notice the actual time available can be as little as 7 days. For people who are not eligible for emergency council accommodation, the current rental market makes it impossible to find somewhere to live in this short amount of time.

This year, our outreach teams are seeing far higher numbers of former asylum seekers sleeping rough following a positive Home Office decision compared with 2022 – with a fivefold increase recorded as of October 2023. We are concerned that these numbers will increase even further.

Bill Tidnam, Thames Reach Chief Executive, says: ‘We are really concerned that we are seeing increased numbers of former asylum seekers sleeping rough, and that this is likely to increase further without action from government. We need extended notice periods and better support for people being evicted from Home Office accommodation, so that there is a chance for them to find housing before they end up on the streets.’

Easing the transition from temporary accommodation to long-term homes

How we’re helping prevent homelessness by supporting people through temporary accommodation

Easing the transition from temporary accommodation to long-term homes

In the news this week, we have seen that the use of temporary accommodation is at a 25-year high in England, with latest figures showing that 105,000 households are in temporary accommodation, up 10% on this time last year. According to the report, a further 83,000 were “initially assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness.”

Part of our mission of ending rough sleeping in London includes ensuring people are moved into long-term, sustainable homes, that meet their needs. However, sometimes this isn’t a straightforward, single move, and our Peer Landlord scheme provides shorter-term accommodation whereby the only other alternative might be sleeping rough.

We have two projects that are catered to different groups of people who might need some support before entering the private rented sector independently. Our project in Hackney is a form of temporary accommodation provides a grounding in support and some stability while the longer-term solution is found in a positive, productive, collaborative way. With sufficient space to develop a plan alongside support from Thames Reach, this friendly, shared environment is a direct alternative to spending time sleeping rough or in hostels, with a view to move on quickly. Mathiu’s story exemplifies the ways in which the Hackney project can be successful in helping people regain confidence in living independently.

Meanwhile in our Lewisham project, we work with people who are in work, but are struggling with maintaining their home. This could be for various reasons, such as having rent arrears, or recent experience sleeping rough. In genuinely affordable, shared accommodation, this is a longer-term solution for people rebuilding their lives.

The need for good quality, affordable, shared accommodation is essential in preventing homelessness, and in Lewisham we work with a funder of social property, who own 75% of the building, and whose investment makes a significant social impact. This is a partnership that has worked well, and that we hope to replicate elsewhere.

Affordable housing is a huge barrier to people gaining their own independence, a predicament which is especially heightened in London, where housing stocks are increasingly precariously managed and hard to come by. This important step towards a suitable home provides the time and space to explore other needs such as mental health, employment support, and financial resilience. Paying attention to these needs will give people the best chance of finding and keeping their long-term home in the near future.

Volunteer wins learning achievement award

Volunteer Becci wins Outstanding Learner of the Year with Lambeth Adult Learning

Volunteer wins learning achievement award

Becci volunteers with our Employment and Skills team, closely supporting the work of Lisa in the team. After being nominated for Outstanding Learner of the Year with Lambeth Adult Learning, Becci was thrilled to have won, with a prizegiving held last week.

“My role involves supporting Lisa with the work she does helping people improve their skills and access employment and volunteering opportunities. I’ve been helping out with the TRaVEL course, after attending the ‘Introduction to Volunteering’ course myself previously.

“I got involved with volunteering when I spoke to my local council about getting back into work, and I was told about the TRaVEL course, which helps people build confidence so they feel ready for work or volunteering. Now I help deliver this training, and help with other things like supporting people making job applications, when they might struggle putting pen to paper themselves. I like that the role tests my limits and allows me to help other people; I really enjoy helping people and learning new things.

“In the long run, I want to work with young people. I went through the care system myself and was a young mum, and the stigma around that is awful. I want to help people who went through similar experiences, as I believe the system can be really cruel and unfair, and having someone around who can listen and understand what you’re going through is really important. I want to use my passion for working with young people along with my skills and experience to make a difference.

“Last week I was presented with the “Award for Outstanding Learner of the Year” with Lambeth Adult Learning. I was nominated by Lisa, and when she told me I really wasn’t expecting to win, but I got the call and was so surprised to hear that I had won! It’s the first time in my life that an achievement has been recognised outside my immediate circle, so that was really nice. The students from the TRaVEL course came to celebrate with me at the ceremony, which meant a lot.”

Lisa, who nominated Becci, said: “I realised very quickly when Becci was a learner on the ‘Introduction to Volunteering’ course that she was going to make an excellent volunteer.  This observation was based on Becci’s calm and steady temperament, her enthusiasm to learn, her helpfulness towards me and other learners, and her relevant and edifying anecdotes of how she puts the classroom learning into practice in her own life.  She is willing to give anything a go adopting the “what’s the best that could happen?” approach which we covered on the course.  Where Becci is a classroom volunteer, learners appreciate her perspective on the topics covered.  She is also skilled at explaining elements in a different way, which is very helpful for me and for the learners.  She is an all-round asset!”


Helping people gain confidence and enter employment

Perfecta, our Newcomer to Volunteering award winner, talks about her experience helping people apply for jobs

Helping people gain confidence and enter employment

We recently celebrated the incredible work of our 244 volunteers with a summer party at our Employment Academy offices. As part of the event, several volunteers were awarded with prizes after being nominated by employees at Thames Reach for their extra efforts. We spoke with Perfecta, who won the Newcomer to Volunteering Award. By supporting people in their job applications and interview technique, she is contributing to the essential work being done to prevent homelessness.

“I’ve been helping people with the preparation and advice they need before applying for and starting work. I meet with them to talk through employment options, and discuss what they want to do, and see if they need any help in getting there. The support they need can look so many different ways, and we do mock interviews and have more informal conversations to boost confidence.

“My favourite part of volunteering is knowing that I’ve helped someone. I have a varied background, having studied law but ending up in the fashion industry, but I’m still interested in social work, and giving something back is really important to me. I used to volunteer with my Dad when I was younger, and before coming to Thames Reach, I wanted to get back into it.

“I really enjoy meeting different people, and being able to help in small ways, even if it’s just helping someone fill in an application form.

“Volunteering has helped me understand different people’s struggles and challenges. You hear a lot about homelessness, and unemployment, but it’s good to see what happens behind the scenes. There is so much positive work happening to make people who have been struggling feel more confident, whether that is with housing or jobs, and it’s great to be a part of that.

“To anyone thinking about volunteering, I’d say definitely go for it. It has made me more of a people person, and has made me more caring towards other people. It’s so rewarding when you can see how your efforts have changed someone’s situation.”

Here is Perfecta’s nomination for the Newcomer to Volunteering Award, made by Thames Reach colleague Kandeel: “Perfecta lends her expertise to support people with crucial aspects [of job-searching] such as CV writing and applications. Her assistance extends beyond the people we work with, as she has also displayed remarkable abilities in providing administrative support to the team. She is willing to accomplish any duty handed to her, and to help anyone. Her willingness to go above and beyond in supporting others is a true testament to her character and dedication.”

Congratulations, Perfecta!

If you are interested in volunteering with any of our projects across Thames Reach, please visit our Volunteering page.



Latest annual figures reveal the full extent of the homelessness crisis

The cost-of-living crisis has contributed to a vast increase in numbers of people sleeping rough

Latest annual figures reveal the full extent of the homelessness crisis

Released today, official statistics of people rough sleeping in London reveal a 21% increase in people sleeping rough in the capital from last year, exposing the real impact of not only the cost-of-living and housing crises, but also tighter immigration and asylum restrictions post-Brexit. They represent a 250% increase on the figure for 2010.

The cost-of-living crisis has particularly affected people who are trying to live in independent accommodation, who are responsible for paying bills on very low incomes.  This has meant that maintaining accommodation is increasingly difficult, and particularly affects those who were already at risk of rough sleeping, and people trying to move on and rebuild their lives after homelessness.  At Thames Reach, we have dedicated teams supporting people into their own homes in different circumstances, whether this is to prevent their homelessness, after periods of sleeping rough, or transitioning from staying in hostels. However, rising rents and increased energy and food costs are becoming overwhelming, and for some it is simply not possible to keep on top of these costs and maintain accommodation.

Just under 50% of people seen sleeping rough in London are non-UK nationals; this is similar to the proportions in 2010 –11, but with the 250% increase we are seeing, the actual number of people is much higher.  The limited or non-existent access to public help that this group are facing remains the same, and it means that resolving their homelessness is more difficult and that they are likely to spend much longer on the streets, and to experience the damage that comes with this.   

These numbers are shocking, but they are even more reason to ensure that we are reaching as many people across London as possible. We must ensure there is the right investment and support to ensure people are not feeling isolated, and that they do feel part of a community in their new home, in addition to mitigating the worst possible outcome for individuals by providing prevention services. If we can prevent an individual’s homelessness, we are closer to ending all homelessness. 


Become a Thames Reach Trustee

Use your expertise to help us end street homelessness

Become a Thames Reach Trustee

Thames Reach Group (Thames Reach Charity and Thames Reach Housing) are looking for new members of our two Boards of Trustees. As well as a commitment to ending street homelessness, and the ability to provide strategic oversight for the organisation, we are hoping to recruit members with specific skills in one or more of the following areas:

  • Services for people affected by rough sleeping
  • Health
  • Housing association compliance

This is an opportunity to be part of an organisation with an excellent reputation for delivering high quality services, and which is serious about working to end street homelessness.

Stephen Howard, Chair of the Thames Reach Board of Trustees, says: ‘Thames Reach is an organisation making a real and practical difference to people affected by homelessness. By joining as a Trustee, you can use your skills and experience to bring us closer to a society where street homelessness is ended and nobody need sleep rough on the streets.’

To speak to us about becoming a Thames Reach Trustee, please contact

For more information about the roles, please visit our list of current volunteering opportunities.

Support for homelessness recovery with Connect, Home, Aspire (CHA)

Megan is a support worker in the Connect, Home, Aspire (CHA) team, helping people recover from homelessness into suitable and stable accommodation

Support for homelessness recovery with Connect, Home, Aspire (CHA)

Content warning: non-graphic references to domestic violence

Megan is a support worker in the Connect, Home, Aspire (CHA) team, who provide a service for people with a range of support needs. The team help people get into suitable and stable accommodation, acting as a stepping stone between supported and private accommodation. Megan discusses the work she does, a significant part of which is keeping in regular contact with her clients, on the phone and in-person.

“I’ve been in the CHA team since joining Thames Reach in December 2021, when the service first started. I have a caseload of around 22 people I work with, who have been referred to us from other homelessness services in London, as well as other teams at Thames Reach. As a woman, most of the female survivors of domestic violence in the project will be in my caseload; this ensures our support is tailored to the individual’s past trauma.

“When I have been assigned a referral, I make contact by phone initially and then will often meet them in-person. It’s important to speak to people face-to-face for initial assessments, so we can cater to what they actually need, and understand their journey. We see people in a range of situations, and no two people are the same. If someone is currently rough sleeping, I will move my schedule around to prioritise them urgently.

“We work with a partner housing association, Cromwood, to house people in long-term, sustainable accommodation. We often have to advocate for people who are referred to us, and build the trust on both sides, once we are certain that the new flat being offered is the best option. Once an offer has been made, we meet with the housing officer and the new tenant at the property to sign the contract and pick up keys.

“It is at this point that our support packages really vary; although in CHA the people we work with have medium-to-high needs, this can vary between weekly to biweekly check-ins, potentially being less frequent as time goes on. In subsequent appointments we will work together to help them with a range of things including registering with a GP, setting up and accompanying them to appointments if necessary, and applying for grants and benefits.

“Promoting independence is essential in what we do, which can include establishing links to new and existing communities, and re-establishing links with family and friends.

“Connect, Home, Aspire is a pan-London service, and we get referrals from a wide range of places, so it is important that I schedule my time so I am spending as little time travelling as possible, visiting my clients who are local to each other in the same day. We play an active role in ensuring people are comfortable in their new accommodation and are integrating well into their daily life; we sometimes attend appointments at GPs, hospitals, courts and food banks with individuals so they feel represented and can build confidence in living more independently, after traumatic periods of their lives.”

Pioneering outreach: The legacy of London Street Rescue

Area Manager, Michael Murray, looks at the legacy of London Street Rescue and future provisions for street outreach in London

Pioneering outreach: The legacy of London Street Rescue

As a pioneering model of street outreach, the London Street Rescue (LSR) service will finish at the end of September, as the service has highlighted the demand for localised services to support people who are sleeping rough. Michael Murray, Area Manager, talks us through how the service worked, and discusses its legacy.

How London Street Rescue works

“London Street Rescue was commissioned by the Greater London Authority (GLA) to provide a pan-London outreach response, mainly to outer London boroughs, where there may be less resources available for people sleeping rough. Many of the areas we worked in didn’t have things like emergency accommodation, hostels, day centres and other key services, so staff had to be creative and often work independently, across multiple boroughs. Each of the five boroughs we now work in has one dedicated lead worker to ensure we can be more structured and efficient in our approach.

“We provide initial support by assessing someone for any local connection and needs, before doing everything needed to successfully end their rough sleeping, including: referring to suitable accommodation, obtaining ID documents to help them move on, supporting with welfare benefits, accessing health services and signposting for immigration support. As we are a response service to rough sleeping, we close a case once they have successfully moved off the street, and we ensure they have secured ongoing support elsewhere.”

How LSR have shaped the vision of ending rough sleeping

“Since the Rapid Response Outreach Team was commissioned, as part of a funding drive by central government to end rough sleeping by 2025, LSR have solely focussed on working with those living on the street.  Many of the boroughs we used to work in were successful in receiving bids to fund their own outreach response, many of them now delivered by Thames Rreach oureach teams. ”

The future of outreach after LSR

“LSR has had a reputation as one of the leading outreach teams in London for many years and the service has seen many changes. I think the support available for rough sleeping in London has never been better and this is why we’re in a position where London no longer requires a service like LSR.  There is still a lot of work to be done and the environment is ever-changing, which could bring new challenges.  Most boroughs now have the resources to provide their own dedicated response. The four boroughs we support in South-East London decided to make a joint bid for an outreach team and were successful.  The GLA are keen for there to be no gap in service provision after LSR formally ends, so it has been agreed that Thames Reach will deliver the new south-east outreach team, due to start on 1 October.  

Bill Tidnam, Chief Executive at Thames Reach, also reflects on its legacy:

“The key legacy of of LSR is that it delivered outreach across London to boroughs that didn’t have their own outreach teams, and by doing so identified the demand that led to boroughs commissioning their own services and understanding the responsibility for rough sleeping, and providing solutions on a local level. Supported by central government funding, this has been a key part of the improvement in the response to people sleeping rough over the last three years.”