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.

How you can help homeless and vulnerable people this Christmas

Donate to our Big Give Christmas Challenge today

How you can help homeless and vulnerable people this Christmas

If you have enjoyed the Banquet, Mark Holford, the WCIT Deputy Master, asks you to give generously to the Thames Reach Hard to Reach Fund, which will provide vital support to the people we work with this Christmas.

Clicking the Donate button below will take you to our Big Give page  where every pound you give will be doubled. We have a target of £11,250 which will be doubled to £22,500 (as of Friday we have raised £5,000). We expect this to help 100 to 150 people. This donation page will remain open until Tuesday.



Here are some examples of the good your donation will do:

£350 – Could furnish a flat for somebody moving into their own place for the first time in many years

£100 – Could buy someone a bike to cycle to a new job

£40 – Could buy a smart phone for someone, helping them to stay in touch with loved ones and access support, a crucial lifeline during the pandemic

£15 – Could cover the travel costs of someone accessing emergency accommodation

Donate today and help provide vital support to the people we work with this Christmas.

Thanks so much for your support.

Happy Christmas from Thames Reach.

Ivo, from South London, pictured above, is just one of the people who’s been helped by the Hard to Reach Fund, to read about how we helped him recover from long term mental health difficulties, click here.

Ivo’s story

Since moving into his own flat, Ivo has seen a huge improvement in his mental health, taking real steps forward on his path to recovery.

Ivo’s story

Since moving into his own flat, Ivo has seen a huge improvement in his mental health, taking real steps forward on his path to recovery.

He first moved into his new flat in January through Brokerage and Resettlement in Lambeth (BRiL), a collaborative project between Lambeth council and Thames Reach, which aims to provide people living in supported or residential accommodation with a flat of their own.

People who have struggled with long-term mental health problems can sometimes end up staying in residential homes or supported housing longer than they need to, often because there are no suitable alternatives. BRiL is addressing this by purchasing properties on the open market and then letting them to formerly homeless people at an affordable rate.

Ivo, originally from Brazil, has lived in the UK for 35 years, and worked at the Savoy Hotel for 20 years, eventually becoming head butler. Around 2011, he began to struggle with his mental health. He eventually became very ill and had to move into supported accommodation. He spent a number of years receiving support and treatment, which, over time, gradually lead to an improve­ment in his mental health; however, he reached a point where this environment began to hold him back and prevent him from making a full recovery.

‘I’ve always lived by myself before, so I started to find it difficult having so many strangers around me all the time, people checking up on me, having no independence, it felt very constricting and I felt like I wasn’t able to get better,’ Ivo says.

BRiL were able to help Ivo make those final steps in an environment better suited to him, moving him in to his new flat, which is his indefinitely, and helping to furnish it. A support worker also initially helped Ivo with his meals, setting up an internet connection, and organising bills.

‘I really like it here, I like the flat, the location is perfect for me, I can walk everywhere I need to go, I’ve lived in Streatham for years before so know the area. Every day, I exercise by walking to Brixton and back, which is really helping me.’

Ivo is also currently volunteering two days a week at a local charity shop, and has enrolled on a volunteer peer mentorship course in order to help others who are in a similar situation to where he used to be. He also spends a lot of time reading, particularly biographies.

‘I’m feeling really well now, 50% better. Living with strangers was difficult on top of feeling unwell at the time. I need space and quiet in order to feel mentally well and this flat has really helped me with that so much.’

To find out more about the support Ivo received when settling into his new home, read about our Big Give Christmas Challenge.

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.

Pascal’s story

Pascal first moved to London in 2008,. After years of working and calling the UK home, he needed support with his accommodation and applying for his indefinite leave to remain.

Pascal’s story

Pascal originally came to London in 2008 from Spain, where he was living after moving from Cameroon. In 2012, he lost his one-bed flat in Abbey Wood, so went back to Cameroon before later returning to the UK, working as a general operative in Leicester for two years. Pascal first needed support from Deptford Reach in 2017 after he became homeless and was staying in a night shelter. In the following years, he was able to develop connections in the community and access private rented sector accommodation, as well as receive help with Universal Credit.

As a dual citizen of Spain and Cameroon, Pascal soon had to apply for his indefinite leave to remain in the UK, so Deptford Reach referred him to Fernando in the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) team at Thames Reach. He deeply appreciates how much Fernando has helped him with multiple aspects of the application, including the language barrier as Pascal’s main language is Spanish, although generally his English is very good. The application process went well, and his indefinite leave to remain was granted. This outcome completes his work with Fernando.

His plans now are to get a good job and have his family, who are currently living in Spain, join him. In his spare time he loves to watch football and tennis, and is an avid reader of spy novels. 

Pascal says it was great to find an organisation that helped him, and the support he received has given him confidence to move on with his life. He says he wishes more people knew about the services offered at Deptford Reach and the EUSS team, so more people like him can find the right support.

This winter, we’re highlighting the work we’re doing to help people move on and live more fulfilling lives. You can find out more about our Moving On From Homelessness campaign and the services supporting people like Pascal by clicking the link here.

Carl’s story

After a short time spent sleeping rough and struggling with addiction, Carl is moving on to the next chapter of his life in a new flat, having made fantastic progress with his rehabilitation, thanks to support from Croydon Reach and Housing First

Carl first became homeless after struggling to keep on top of the bills, rent and admin involved in his tenancy. He returned to his family home for a short time, but after a relationship breakdown he found himself rough sleeping for the first time. He was picked up by outreach services, and moved into supported accommodation in Croydon. Whilst there was support available, he struggled to engage. Carl chose to spend more and more time on the streets, begging and sleeping out overnight. Spending less time in the project meant that Carl was not engaging with the support to help him with benefits, his mental and physical health, and with his drug use.

Carl was then sanctioned by the Job Centre for not attending appointments, and with no source of income he built up service charge arrears, and was evicted from the supported project. With no source of income, and no space to call his own, Carl’s physical health deteriorated. His drug use then increased as a coping mechanism. This had a negative impact on his physical and mental health, and meant that he spent more time begging to sustain his habit.

While he was on the streets, he was helped by Croydon Reach, the outreach provision in the borough. They were able to check on his welfare, and worked to encourage him to return to the supported project, offering to help him clear his arrears. Croydon Reach could see that Carl would continue to choose rough sleeping, and that his health would continue to suffer as a result, so offered another option: Housing First. Housing First were able to meet Carl whilst he was on the street, and explain what they would be able to offer him; somewhere safe to live that was his own, and a support worker who would listen to him, and build personalised support around what he wanted to achieve. His own front door, and a safe space to rest and to reflect on his future, for the first time in a long while. Carl began to feel cautiously optimistic.

By building a good relationship with the team, Carl felt safe enough to open up about his patterns of use, so the team could find the best method of support for him. By breaking tasks down into small, achievable chunks, they were able to get his benefits sanction lifted, and Carl received his first Universal Credit payment in months. Seeing this result made him confident that Housing First really would be able to help him. Now that he had an income, he was able to move in to temporary accommodation, and very soon after this was offered a chance to view his Housing First property. The team were able to quickly arrange for carpet, white goods, and furniture to be fitted in the flat, to make it look like a home.

With regular, frequent visits to Carl when he first moved in, he told Housing First that he would like help engaging with local drug services. This was a huge step, and whilst overcoming drug addiction takes a very long time, he has remained linked in with the drug service, and taking his prescription since he moved into his flat, and has not been seen begging in his old usual spot since. Whilst Carl has not stopped using drugs altogether, he is using in a safer way, with minimised risk of harm. Spending less money on using has allowed Carl to invest in making his flat a home. He has also registered with a local GP and is beginning to focus on his physical and mental health. Carl has begun to reconnect with some of his family, and his home through Housing First has given him both the space and the confidence to do so. He hopes to start an online course in the New Year, and is hopeful that despite the adversity that 2020 has brought, 2021 will be his year.

This winter, we’re highlighting the work we’re doing to help these people move on and live more fulfilling lives. You can find out more about our Moving On From Homelessness campaign and the services supporting people like Carl by clicking the link here.

*image used is not that of Carl.

Mark’s story

After receiving support at our Robertson Street hostel, Mark is now saving up to furnish his new flat

Mark’s story

Mark arrived at our Robertson Street hostel in January 2020, having struggled for a long time with alcoholism.

He had spent many years working on production of long running ITV show The Bill as a driver, transporting light and sound equipment, as well as working on Eastenders and a number of films. The job was intensive and he would often be working seven days a week. When production of the show ended in 2010, though, Mark found himself at a loss and struggled to find new work. ‘When production finished on The Bill, that’s really when I started drinking,’ he says.

Whilst working on the show, Mark rarely used to drink, as he would often have to be up to start work at three or four in the morning, but after the show finished, he lost contact with a lot of people, and began to feel isolated.

Then his mother and brother both sadly passed away, and Mark began to drink heavily.

‘When you’re drinking the first thing you do in the morning is run to the toilet and you’re heaving up but there’s nothing there to come up. You can’t eat, you can’t drink, you can’t even drink water. You get the shakes, bad nightmares, sweats, you don’t look or feel good,’ he says.

Since arriving at Robertson Street, Mark has received a lot of support from his key worker, Alison, who told him that getting a place of his own was possible once he’d gotten help for his drinking.

Alison has been amazed by the progress Mark has made. ‘He’s become so resilient,’ she says. ‘The difference we’ve seen in him from when he arrived to now is huge.’

‘The people here actually care,’ Mark says. ‘The staff are absolutely amazing.’

Nine months into his stay at Robertson Street, Mark is doing well and is spending lots of time in the gym. Alison has helped him get the backdated Personal Independence Payments he was owed, and he has now saved up some money, which he intends to use on furnishing his new flat.

‘I know if I touch the money I’ll spend it on booze and lose everything,’ he says. ‘So instead I’m focusing hard on just saving everything for the flat.’

Mark is also hoping to get a job soon, and to save up further for a car and a holiday. ‘Having something like this to aim for is helping me stay sober.

Mark is one of many people who are moving on from street homelessness. This winter, we’re highlighting the work we’re doing to help these people move on and live more fulfilling lives. You can find out more about our Moving On From Homelessness campaign and the services supporting people like Mark by clicking the link here.