Hanne Lindenburg is Lead Worker for Thames Reach, a homelessness charity and provider of supported housing.
It’s 7am and I’m on my way to central London to pick up one of my clients who is sleeping rough outside the train station. The plan is to support her to make a homelessness application to her home borough in a different part of London. I am already worrying about the outcome – I know that even though she has addiction and mental health issues, a learning disability and physical health complications, she is unlikely to be offered supported accommodation by this particular borough.
Once we get to the council my fears are confirmed – the housing officer tells us that my client must look for somewhere to live in the private sector. Although she states she has never used a computer, he tells her to go to her local library to look for a place online and to make use of the council’s deposit scheme once she has found a flat. In spite of our protestations – my client has never lived on her own and does not yet feel safe to do so, is not able to cook, is at risk of suicide and overdose – we do not get any further.
Even after a phone call to the deposit scheme, who confirm they will not pay a deposit to anyone currently using drugs, we are unable to change the housing officer’s mind. The appointment is then ended, and the client is not offered emergency accommodation either due to not being considered priority need. We leave the appointment feeling dejected.
I will be appealing this on my client’s behalf, but there is still a lot of work to be done and she may be street homeless for a while yet.
Luckily, my next appointment leaves me more optimistic. I am visiting another client who has been in supported accommodation in London for three months. The difference now from when we first met him on the street is striking. When we met, he was drinking between 40-80 units of alcohol (the equivalent of 4-8 bottles of wine) every day, had not showered for months and was suffering from head lice. He was extremely depressed and unable to cope. Luckily, he was accepted by a supported accommodation project for people with complex needs. With the support of the staff there and his alcohol worker, he has been cutting down slowly but daily, and is now drinking at a much safer level.
I have arranged to meet him and his support worker to tell him that we are now closing his case as he is safely housed. He looks well, and proudly shows me his room, which he has made homely. He tells me that the supported housing he is in has saved his life and that he would have been dead by now if he had still been on the street.
It is clear he and his support worker have a great rapport, and during our meeting he tells her, “When you go to sleep at night, remember that what you have done that day is to make a real difference to the life of a person.” Both of us are moved by what he says, and I leave the appointment feeling very grateful for projects such as this one.
Thames Reach’s mission is to assist homeless and vulnerable men and women to find decent homes, build supportive relationships and lead fulfilling lives. They do this through a range of services, including:
- response services, working directly with homeless people on the streets and in hostels
- prevention services to help stop vulnerable people from becoming homeless in the first place
- recovery services to help vulnerable and formerly homeless people to get their lives back on track
Employment Academy which helps people to find work and access training and volunteering opportunities.
Supported housing helps to ensure people with support needs can lead a healthy and fulfilling life within their own home and community. It means that as many of us as possible can can keep our independence, regain our self-confidence when we need to, and feel secure. It can, and does, transform lives. Find out how you can show your support.