Bench Outreach helps people find and sustain accommodation and supports people with drug, alcohol and mental health problems to access treatment through four projects:
Bench Homelessness Prevention provides signposting, advice, referral and advocacy to people who are homeless or vulnerably housed and people who have difficulty accessing treatment for drug and alcohol use or mental health problems.
Our access service provides expert advice and support for people who are homeless and vulnerable to homelessness. Within in the service we aim to help resolve not only housing needs but also any wider issues that can contribute to being more vulnerable to homelessness. We offer tailor made support and with work with you to offer a clear plan in line with your needs to help you work towards independence of services.
We are able to offer legal advice in Housing (including security of tenure, overcrowding, transfers, and disrepair) and Homelessness (including housing allocation and suitability for particular housing) and are able to make referrals to supported housing and assist with homelessness and other housing applications. We can assist with advice on Welfare Benefits and support with completing benefit applications, Mandatory Reconsiderations and Appeals. We can also assist with applications for ID if you don’t have any.
In addition we can offer representation in County Court with Housing and Mortgage Possession Claims and with Warrants of Eviction and in HMC and Tribunal Service with Welfare Benefit Claims. We also offer signposting and referrals to other services such as drug and alcohol and mental health.
The access service is appointment only so please call the office on 0208 694 7740 to make an appointment. If you are unable to come to the office we can offer home visits depending on capacity. We also have two outreach services, one running in CGL on Wednesdays and one in the Pepys Estate Cafe on Friday afternoons.
Bench Housing First project places vulnerable, entrenched homeless people directly into self-contained independent housing and provides them with the support they need to maintain their tenancies.
Housing First evolved in the United States in the 1990s and works in contrast to the “stair case” approach to resolving homelessness currently adopted in the UK and Europe. Housing First places homeless people directly into long-term, self-contained housing with no requirement that they progress through transitional housing programmes, such as hostels, shared housing, or time limited tenancies based on special conditions.
Housing First services provide substantial and multidisciplinary social support on an “assertive” basis. However, tenancies are not conditional upon the client actively engaging with this support or complying with therapies.
Housing First was introduced in England in 2010 and has increasingly gained popularity as a service model. An evaluation of nine Housing first services in England in 2015 which included Bench Housing First concluded that the model ‘showed high levels of success in reducing long-term and repeated homelessness, which is associated with very high support needs.’
In our work we adopt the following principles of Housing First as outlined in Housing First England:
- People have the right to a home
- Flexible support is provided for as long as it is needed
- Housing and support are separated
- Individuals have choice and control
- The service is based on people’s strengths and aspirations
- An active engagement approach is used
- A harm reduction approach is used
About Our Project
Bench Outreach Housing First was established in January 2014. To date, we have been supported by the Tudor Trust, Trust for London and our current funder the Big Lottery. Our Housing First project was one of the first to be launched in England and remains one of the few projects with access to social housing for our clients. Access to social housing is one of the things that makes our project so special as it enable us to offer our clients a stable home.
What we believe also makes our project special is our staff. Although frequently hard, our House First staff approach their work with kindness, compassion and dedication. To make sure they are able to we operate with small caseloads to allow them to work closely with our clients and each other. At Bench our staff are our most valuable asset and we work proactively to support them as best we can in their work.
About Our Clients
The people we work with in Housing First come from all kinds of backgrounds but the main thing they have in common is that they all have substantial experiences of homelessness. Traumatic backgrounds have left them with a high prevalence of drug and alcohol use and mental health needs. When they first start working with us they have been though the system multiple times and often lack trust. But despite these similarities we never approach working with people with a ‘one size fits all’ mentality. Our aim with all the people we work with is to support them to find a long term solution to all the unique barriers they face never a quick fix.
Want to know more?
We have further information on Housing First in our resources section. If you would like to know more about our Housing First project or support the work we do please contact us.
The Evening Service is a partnership with The Bear Church in Deptford, running since 2005. On Sunday evenings, a team of Bench Outreach staff and volunteers, alongside members of the church, prepare and serve food to around 60 vulnerable and homeless people. Around 3,000 meals are served every year. The evening is an opportunity for people to talk to us about their housing and treatment needs and to receive signposting to appropriate services.
Nyon Grove, our small supported accommodation project provides housing for people with low support needs and helps them access treatment, education, training and employment.