The year has been monumental as we launched our new brand at the House of Commons in October 2015. Hosted by Steve Reed MP, the highlight of the event was the speech by Sharon Graham, former customer and now support worker, who shared her moving story of her evolution with us. We aim to make a lasting difference to lives and communities and Sharon’s story made this very real. It was a great way to kick off our new brand and demonstrate the importance of the work we do.
This reports shares the successes and positive pieces of work during the year.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff, volunteers and Board members for their energy and commitment during the year. I would also like to pay a special tribute to Dennis Simmonds, our Director of Corporate Services, who has retired after 18 years of loyal service. His energy, commitment, integrity and financial acumen have ensured our success to date and we are extremely grateful to him. The continued austerity agenda, and ever changing environment in which we work, means we may face challenging times ahead but we will continue to rise to these challenges using the foundation that is Dennis’ legacy.
Additionally, I would also like to extend my thanks to all of our funders and supporters, without whom we would not be able to meet the needs of both our current and future customers.
Funded by BBC Children in Need and John Lyon's Charity, the programme is founded on our value of believing in people by helping them find the right solutions to pressures they face in their everyday lives.
Young people across the London Boroughs of Lambeth, Lewisham and Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea are matched with mentors who help by building their self-esteem and self-confidence; supporting them to navigate difficulties and stress and resist peer pressure.
I didn't think that I would gain as much from mentoring as I have. I've built a strong relationship with my mentor Christine who has helped me to feel confident and achieve the GCSEs that I needed for further education.
Mentors also help to improve mentees' engagement with their education, which improves their chances for the future.
When Paul, 16, became a mentee he was struggling to balance his homework, time-management and behaviour in class:
'I didn't think that I would gain as much from mentoring as I have. I've built a strong relationship with my mentor Christine who has helped me to feel confident and achieve the GCSEs that I needed for further education. My behaviour in class has improved and so has my time-management. Having a mentor has changed my life.'
Christine, Paul's mentor, can also see a change in Paul:
'I've definitely seen a positive change in Paul's education and personal development. I've got to know him and seen his self-esteem grow over the last few months. Young adults like Paul are our future generation so I believe its valuable for mentors to look out for them.'
After successfully completing his GCSEs, Paul is now studying a BTEC in sport as a sixth-former at Bishop Thomas Grant School.
We believe that having a mentor gives young people the best chances of living successful lives and prevents social exclusion including possible future homelessness.
CR Zero 2020 is part of the European End Street Homelessness Campaign, developed by Building and Social Housing Foundation and FEANTSA. It is a pan European movement of cities, working together to permanently house Europe's most vulnerable people and end chronic street homelessness by 2020.
One of the key principles of the campaign is introducing Housing First as a new solution for people with complex needs who have slept on the streets. Housing First, as the name suggests, uses housing as a starting point rather than an end goal.
We are proud to lead this campaign in Croydon with our partners; Crisis, Expert Link, Homeless Link and Thames Reach with endorsement by Croydon Council, to find this solution.
In the first phase of the campaign 90 volunteers went into Croydon to survey every homeless person to understand their needs. Each person received a score, depending on how they answered the questions, which is designed to assess how complex their needs are.
We spoke to 64 homeless people and 42 people completed the survey. The results showed that 55% of people fell into the highest category of 8+ meaning that they require longer-term supported accommodation.
Of the five cities that have taken part in the survey across Europe, Croydon showed the highest percentage of people in the 8+ category, including the presence of Tri-Morbidity; when a person has mental and physical health needs as well as substance misuse.
We presented the findings to the community in September. As well as volunteers, we had representatives from the local faith based organisations, the MP for Croydon Central and Minister for Housing and Planning, Gavin Barwell, the Mayor of Croydon and the Cabinet Member for Housing.
The second phase of the campaign includes a community-based solutions group, working together to end chronic rough sleeping in Croydon by 2020 by challenging existing services to work in different ways and develop new service models, including Housing First.
Many thanks to Croydon Council, our volunteers and all of the local businesses that have supported the campaign.
Our volunteer counsellors, who are registered members of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, support customers with emotional, behavioural and relationship issues, adapting different approaches and methods to suit each individual.
Customers can access up to 12 counselling sessions, completely free of charge and within an average of 6 weeks after being referred, which is significantly shorter than waiting times for similar local statutory services, which can take up two years.
Cassandra, who began as a volunteer counsellor with Evolve in October 2015, has empowered customers by building close and trusting relationships with them:
'The relationship you have with your counsellor can change your situation significantly. When you see that change in the person, it is so rewarding.'
The relationship you have with your counsellor can change your situation significantly. When you see that change in the person, it is so rewarding.
Cassandra, Volunteer Counsellor.
The one-to-one counselling allows our customers to express their thoughts and feelings in a confidential environment and learn how to manage them in a more constructive and positive way. Speaking of one customer who Cassandra supported, she said:
'It was so rewarding to see that I could make her feel happy, make her feel safe. It was great to see that her life was changing for the better, and that I was a part of that change.'
Our volunteer counselling service is part of our wider Health + Wellbeing programme, which empowers people to make positive changes to their lifestyles to improve their mental and physical health.
This year, we ran a digital inclusion project in partnership with Good Things Foundation and Homeless Link, where a group of peer mentors used their diverse gifts and strengths to encourage other customers to improve their digital skills.
The mentors included Junior, Karen and David from Alexandra House with Daniel from Bromley. Each brought their unique abilities to the group; some knocking on customers' doors and publicising the events, whilst others set up equipment and delivered training.
All the mentors inspired other customers to get involved with the digital programme which included IT workshops, an Accumul8 photography course and film via Open Cinema Foundation.
Being a peer mentor really helped boost my confidence - it was encouraging to know that Evolve really wanted my input.
'Being a peer mentor really helped boost my confidence - it was encouraging to know that Evolve really valued my input,' David said.
Collectively the group volunteered over 600 hours of their time encouraging 118 customers to attend the digital inclusion workshops and Open Cinema season.
Being a peer mentor has also had wide-reaching benefits for the mentors themselves. Dan has now moved on into independent accommodation and co-runs a music production workshop with our Work + Learning team.
'My confidence has grown,' Dan said, 'I've been using my knowledge to tutor customers, which is something I couldn't have done, a few years back. For the first time in years, I can see a bright future ahead.'
We are grateful to all our corporate supporters who have got involved. One highlight this year was our partnership with EY, who donated the equivalent of 55 days' support as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme. 53 of their team got involved in a number of fundraising and skills sharing activities, with our customers over a 5-day period.
This included: a bake sale, donations of books and toiletries, a 'ready, steady, cook!' competition at Alexandra House, a garden makeover at Burton White House, and a CV / recruitment event at their Head Office near London Bridge.
Our collaboration ensured that we achieved a positive outcome for our customers and that the team at EY used their skills in the most effective way.
Karen Wilkinson, Head of Experienced Hire Recruitment at EY said:
'I have been extremely impressed. My positive view is driven by the organisation itself and the opportunity it provided for people in need of help and accommodation. It certainly opened my eyes to some of the challenges facing homeless young people and I hope that this is just the start of future collaborations.'
Involving local businesses to be part of the solution in our community is an important aspect of what we do. By working with us, businesses can benefit from bespoke CSR programmes that will engage their staff and make a difference on their doorstep.
Next year we hope to develop more exciting and innovative collaborations that will make a lasting difference to lives and communities.
After 18 years' service, Dennis Simmonds has retired as our Director of Corporate Services. He joined us in 1998 when the organisation was known as Croydon YMCA and has overseen the organisation grow from a turnover of £1.3 million with 40 employees, to a turnover of £10 million and over 170 employees.
He has been instrumental in several key events in our history, including two merges, our flagship redevelopment programme, and the 2015 rebrand of the organisation.
We want to take this opportunity to thank Dennis for his tireless service to our customers and the communities where we work and wish him a long and happy retirement.
We are delighted that George Bageya, Work + Learning Officer, won Apprentice of the Year 2016 in the national 'Housing Heroes' Awards, organised by the Chartered Institute of Housing and Inside Housing. The awards aim to recognise and reward those 'unsung heroes' of the housing world.
George graduated from Evolve's apprenticeship programme in 2015, which provides an opportunity for people without support work experience to become trainee support workers. Since graduating George has made a lasting difference to Evolve's customers, including helping to run the Digital Inclusion programme.
George said, 'I am honoured and humbled to win the 'Apprentice of the Year' Housing Heroes Award. I hope my experience inspires others'.
On 20 October 2015, we proudly launched our new brand at the House of Commons with over 150 of our supporters including donors, stakeholders, employees and customers.
Hosted by Steve Reed, MP for Croydon North, we were privileged to hear Sharon's story of evolution with us; formerly a customer from Keystone House, she is now a Support Worker at Alexandra House. 'None of this would be possible if it wasn't for the passion and commitment of the many people that are Evolve…I will always be grateful,' she said.
As an award-winning author and speaker living in Croydon, Ava has inspired and motivated our customers to write and has supported our CR Zero 2020 campaign.
'I am excited about being able to impact on the lives of the amazing customers that Evolve works with.'
Ava has lived experience of being homeless as a teenager in Jamaica, 'I became homeless after running away from a stepmother who tried to sell me into child prostitution. I knew I needed to forge a better life for myself so I used education as my platform out of homelessness.'
We are grateful to Ava for everything she has done this year and we are excited to be working together to make a lasting difference to lives and the local community.
Also a big thank you to all of our generous individual supporters who have make donations to Evolve Housing + Support in the last year.
Click here to see how Evolve has helped Neema realise her dream of working in the fashion industry.
Click here to read about Patrick’s involvement with Evolve and his passion to make a difference.
Click here to download the full Evolve House 2016 annual report.
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