From 1999 to 2018 I was CEO of homelessness charity Thames Reach. In 2018 I moved to MHCLG to deliver rough sleeping and homelessness programmes. I continue to act as an adviser to goverment. This blog seeks to bring to life the complexities and dilemmas involved in trying to help people escape homelessness as well as the triumphs and successes. It aims to tell the stories of the inspirational people I have met in my work, many of whom have faced homelessness and from whom I have learnt a lot.
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…