The Mayor of Newham has applauded a charity’s work in providing a place to call home in the borough with the highest level of homelessness in the country.
A reception named ‘A Place to Call Home’ drew attention to the 320,000 people experiencing homelessness in England, and specifically the local crisis in the London Borough of Newham, where one in every 24 people do not have a home. Held in the House of Lords on 3rd December, it was organised by homelessness charity Caritas Anchor House and hosted by Field Marshal Lord Guthrie. Bishop Alan Williams sm and Fr Dominic Howarth (below left) from Caritas Diocese of Brentwood were both present.
Revealing her personal experience of homelessness, Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz said, “When I was 16, we lost our beautiful, family home. Myself, my three siblings and parents lived in temporary accommodation for around eight years, and we spent a period ‘sofa-surfing’ in my uncle’s overcrowded home. It took my family some ten years to recover, but the trauma of losing your home never leaves you.”
Caritas Anchor House, based in the London Borough of Newham, was commended by the Mayor who spoke passionately about how the local authority is working in partnership with Caritas Anchor House to help more people than ever to overcome homelessness and get back on their feet. She said, “I want to convey my heartfelt and sincere gratitude to Caritas Anchor House, a formidable charity delivering a profoundly important service.”
Each year, Caritas Anchor House provides hundreds of people with a place to call home, and gives them the support they need to turn their lives around. By providing education, guidance and personal rehabilitation, they supported 262 homeless people last year, of which 45 secured employment and 91 went on to move into their own homes.
Jeremy Swain, former chief executive of charity Thames Reach, is now heading up the government’s new initiative tackling homelessness. He said, “We need to end rough sleeping in this borough. The government is supporting Newham and has committed to £1.4 million of funding for the borough as part of our Rough Sleeper Initiative. I think the good news is that Caritas Anchor House is a wonderful service, which we are investing in directly.”
Swain reminded guests to focus not only on the stark numbers, but on the humans beings affected by homelessness.
Ibrahim (right), now living at Caritas Anchor House, shared his experiences with the 250-strong crowd. He had always lived in his parents’ home in Newham, but after a relationship breakdown with his family, Ibrahim became homeless.
“I’ve got GCSEs and A levels from a local school, and even achieved a Level 5 accredited course in English Teaching. Things were looking up for me; I never envisaged that I would become homeless.
“I ended up sleeping rough, and couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. It was late autumn when the first gust of wind hit me, then it dawned on me how serious my situation was. I was absolutely terrified.”
He spent weeks trying to get by in the harsh weather, before the local authority referred him to Caritas Anchor House for accommodation in October 2017.
“My keyworker at Caritas Anchor House was really helpful, kind and proactive right from the start. She recognised that I needed to focus on my mental health before I was able to progress, and helped me get one-to-one counselling support, which was absolutely invaluable.
“She empowered me, and encouraged me to apply for jobs which I thought were too good for me. The barriers were actually in my head – I was more than capable, but didn’t have the self-belief. She helped me to see that the sky really is the limit when you have the confidence to try.”
Ibrahim praised the support he has received in his time at Caritas Anchor House, and said, “I can’t thank Caritas Anchor House enough for their support – I will be forever grateful. Now I feel confident and know that with determination I am able to achieve all I want to. I can finally see a direction in my life and it’s positive.”
Amanda Dubarry, the charity’s chief executive, said, “Home is not just about a place, it’s about how you feel. You can’t put a value on that, and I can see that every day in the work that Caritas Anchor House does. Here, people move in and move on, connections are made, confidence is built, skills grow, barriers are broken and difficulties are eased. It’s a place where people believe in you.”
“I am humbled every day by the work our staff do and the impact that they have, so thank you for being superbly professional, for being dedicated to other people, but most of all, thank you for staying kind because it matters.”
The charity needs help to ensure that every person that walks through their doors has access to the best support possible, making the hope of an independent life a reality. For more information, or to make a contribution to turn a life around, please visit www.caritasanchorhouse.org.uk or call 020 7476 6062.