This article was first published on The Croydon Citizen on 30/07/2016
How you can help Evolve Housing to end homelessness in Croydon
The state of homelessness in Croydon
Whilst it’s highly-fashionable in the capital to clutch our pearls about extortionate rents and house prices, Croydon’s biggest issue – as I suggested last year – is homelessness.
Too many homeless people in Croydon are having the door slammed in their face, leaving them with nowhere to turn. As this research by Crisis shows, homeless people going to their councils for help are being turned away with no choice but to sleep on the streets. The reason? They are not a priority under the law, meaning that the council has no duty to help them with housing.
It’s hard to get a good grip on actual numbers (and definitions) of homelessness in Croydon (see Robert Ward’s excellent datablog on Croydon’s street population, here), but whatever the figure, for one Croydon charity, Evolve Housing, this has gone on for too long.
The story of Evolve Housing
You might not have heard about Evolve Housing before, but you will recognise its previous incarnation: The South London Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).
The South London YMCA was established in 1861 and for over 150 years served people in Croydon, Lambeth and Kensington and Chelsea with a variety of needs including young people at risk, people experiencing homelessness, ex-offenders, teenage parents, people with mental health needs and those with alcohol & drug misuse.
In recent years, the diversity of the YMCA customer group and the continuing expansion of South London YMCA’s work made it clear that it would have to move away from the YMCA name – especially as the organisation recently rebranded as a dedicated Christian youth charity. The result was the South London YMCA became Evolve Housing + Support in late 2015.
A comment to Third Sector from Evolve’s CEO, Jeremy Gray, explained the move:
“We simply couldn’t see ourselves as part of that future”, he said. “We are not a Christian youth charity. We work with all ages and sections of the community in a completely secular way. We felt continuing our affiliation with the YMCA didn’t make great sense”.
Under the new guise of Evolve, the charity continues much of the work it did before as London’s third-largest charity providing supported housing for homeless people, working with 1500 people each year across the same four London boroughs.
CR Zero 2020: Help Evolve Housing to end chronic homelessness in Croydon
Evolve are seeking to end homelessness in Croydon by 2020 and are about to start a new campaign called CR Zero 2020.
Crucial to the success of the campaign, is to understand Croydon’s unique set of strengths and challenges through the use of a City Self-Assessment Tool.
Evolve intend get to know every homeless person in Croydon by name, by going onto the streets to find them and to discuss what they need. This should help them target specific practices or policies for improvement and track our progress over the life of the campaign.
“Evolve aim to build a coalition of the willing, in which all members of the community can play an active role in identifying solutions and putting them into practice.”
Evolve is conducting a ‘connections week’ beginning today (Tuesday 30th August 2016) during which they will gather the information on who’s out there and what they need to successfully move into accommodation. This will be led by local volunteers and will culminate in the public presentation of the data in Croydon on Saturday 3rd September 2016.
There are several ways that you can help them over the next few weeks:
Raising awareness on social media by pledging your support for the campaign – taking a picture of yourself with the hashtag #CRZero2020
Going out on to the streets and speaking to homeless people during the ‘connections week’ starting on the 30th August
Helping with the public presentation
Being part of the group looking at solutions to end chronic street homelessness in Croydon by 2020
Unlike traditional efforts to reduce or manage street homelessness only involving one or two homeless agencies and the council, CR Zero 2020 intends to be a community effort and a community solution. Evolve aim to build a coalition of the willing, in which all members of the community can play an active role in identifying solutions and putting them into practice.
CR Zero 2020 is an ambitious campaign, but by bringing local people together to find new solutions for chronic rough sleepers the charity’s efforts will hopefully end the cycle of homelessness in in Croydon.