I am the Chief Executive of Thames Reach, a charity working with homeless and socially excluded people. I hope this blog bring to life the complexities, dilemmas and doubts involved in trying to help people escape homelessness, as well as the triumphs and successes. Above all, it is intended to tell the stories of the inspirational people I have met in my work, many of whom have endured years of homelessness, yet gone on to do great things.
There is a crepuscular light and a chilly autumn wind is
sending leaves upwards into the evening sky.
Nonetheless, I maintain the ritual of stopping to watch the
skateboarders at London’s South Bank.
They cavort and shimmy in the cavernous space under the Queen Elizabeth
Hall, the harsh concrete backcloth these days covered with vivid graffiti. So much life and energy where there was once
misery and desperation. For this was the place where, thirty years ago, the
greatest number of rough sleepers could be found. By the late 1980s, following some misguided
and deeply damaging welfare benefit changes introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s
government and an absence of an effective strategy to address an inexorable
rise in rough sleeping, over 120 people were sleeping around the brutalist
architecture of the South Bank. In the evening,
huddles of rough sleepers would gather at tables within the Royal Festival Hall
and wait for the arrival of the first soup run. I was one of the outreach wo…