I call myself a citizen of the world

    In celebration of Black History Month, we have been sharing the diverse stories of our staff and clients. Shaaban, Deputy Manager of Islington Mental Health Service, explains how his own experiences of homelessness have helped shape his approach to supporting people with complex needs such as those recovering from drug and alcohol use or mental and physical health problems. Shaaban focuses on individual strengths and inspires people to believe that their recovery really is possible.

    Many people think about people who are homeless in terms of what their needs are, what is wrong with them. But I believe that we should be thinking about what they are good at. Everyone has a story, and everyone has achieved something in their lives.

    I call myself a citizen of the world, a global citizen. My dad was a Tanzanian diplomat so I’ve travelled around a bit; I started primary school in Beijing and lived in the Sudan, so I speak a bit of Arabic. I was also in the Tanzanian army for about two and a half years. But my own story also involves personal experience of sleeping rough on the streets of London.

    I used to sleep on the Strand or near Victoria station

    For me, one of the worst things about sleeping rough was being physically abused. In the 90s, I used to sleep on the Strand or near Victoria station in London. It got busy around there, especially at night. Sometimes people got drunk and violent, and would attack and even urinate on people sleeping rough. I was also singled out by some other rough sleepers because of my race.

    After three months on the streets, an outreach worker gave me details of a St Mungo’s hostel in Clapham. I went and they checked me in the same day. I slept in a bed that night.

    That was the beginning of my journey to recovery. I was at the St Mungo’s hostel for about six months, and then moved on to another hostel in Soho for nine months. After that I went through rehab twice, the first time in 2000, and the second time in 2005.

    I started an apprenticeship

    During my second and final stay in rehab, the manager there suggested that I train as a support worker, so I started an apprenticeship.

    I wanted to turn my own painful experiences into something positive, so after finishing my training, I decided to specialise in mental health and substance use. I have a degree and qualifications in mental health, psychology and counselling.

    I’ve worked for St Mungo’s for almost a decade now. It’s an inspiring organisation to work for, because we don’t stop at giving people a roof over their heads. We address the underlying reasons why people become homeless in the first place.

    I know from first-hand experience that recovery is possible

    My role is certainly challenging, but the thing that puts a smile on my face is getting to know my clients, and seeing the transition that they make.

    People are always asking me about my hat, because I never take it off! I tell them, when people get married, they wear a wedding ring to represent the commitment that they’ve made. My hat represents a moment of great change in my life, a moment when I committed to my own recovery, and to helping others to recover.

    A lot of my clients experienced feelings of failure, shame and guilt when they were sleeping rough. People often turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate against the pain of these emotions. I know from first-hand experience that recovery is possible, with the right help. I’m glad that telling my story helps people to believe that.

    Celebrating our Diversity

    As this week marks the start of Black History Month, Amy White, Head of Client Involvement, Diversity and Inclusion, reflects on some of the activities that took place across our offices last month for Diversity Day.

    The idea behind Diversity Day is to raise awareness, share and learn from each other and celebrate our differences so everyone at St Mungo’s feels valued for who they are.

    Last year our first ever Diversity Day was a huge success with 300 staff, clients and volunteers getting involved. This year we wanted to make the celebrations bigger and better than ever.

    Staff and clients organised activities at our services across the South and South West. We also hosted three events at our head office, one of our large hostels in London and our Recovery College in Bristol.

    A celebration of who we are

    It was great to share our cultural heritage, identity, skills and talents with others, getting involved with art workshops, live music, poetry and much more. We also had an impressive array of foods from around the world and stalls from each of our seven Diversity Networks.

    Throughout the day we held a series of insightful talks. A range of experts spoke on issues including tackling hate crime, race equality, improving the housing sector’s response to domestic abuse and the reform of the Gender Equality Act and clients also shared their personal experiences.

    Our strength lies in our diversity

    Diversity and inclusion is something we are committed to in our work every day. However, it was fantastic to have a dedicated day to focus on these values and highlight how important they are to us.

    We believe having diversity of thought and experiences makes us more innovative and better able to meet the different needs of our clients. It also ensures people feel valued, respected and able to be their best selves at work.

    Engaging staff and clients

    I’ve had some great feedback from the day, including from Pragna – former Deputy Chair of our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Network (BAME) Network – who said “the diversity initiative at St Mungo’s has made such a positive impact on my life, that I have continued to carry it forward not just in my professional life, but in my personal life too.

    the diversity initiative at St Mungo’s has made such a positive impact on my life, that I have continued to carry it forward not just in my professional life, but in my personal life too

    “Being involved with the Networks gave me confidence, built my skills and thankfully opened my eyes to my own judgements and misconceptions, as well as providing a safe space for open dialogue.”

    We wanted the day to have a lasting legacy and encouraged all staff and clients to commit to one action to continue to promote inclusion. I look forward to seeing how people put this into practice over the next year and beyond.

    St Mungo’s was highly commended for the best diversity and inclusion initiative at the CIPD People Management Awards 2018 and has been nominated for the Personnel Today Awards 2018 Diversity & Inclusion – Public Sector Award. Find out more about how our commitment to diversity shapes our organisational values here.

    Developing a career in the homelessness sector

    Sheila Akao-Okeng, Housing First Worker for the Tower Hamlets Street Outreach Response Team, explains how St Mungo’s approach to recruitment helped her develop her passion for helping people sleeping rough into a career in the homelessness sector.

    My journey at St Mungo’s started as an Administrator in the Volunteer Services team. I had previously worked for an International Development charity, and loved my job, but was aware of the rise in people sleeping rough in London and keen to do something to help tackle this. The Administrator role at St Mungo’s gave me the perfect opportunity to transfer my skills into a sector that was closer to my passion.

    Focusing on transferable skills

    St Mungo’s uses competency based recruitment methods. This means that even if you don’t have specific experience in the homelessness sector, the interview process looks at the transferrable skills that you have got. If you haven’t worked in this sector before, don’t let that discourage you from applying for a role here; you can bring innovation and creativity from outside experience into your role.

    As an Administrator, I learnt more about the homelessness sector through visiting and working alongside services like StreetLink, Outreach teams and Clearing House to support them in their volunteer recruitment processes. The role was the perfect introduction to the breadth and diversity of St Mungo’s work. It also enabled me to start thinking about what my next career step would be.

    Involvement in diversity networks

    St Mungo’s champions personal and career development and, as part of this, I joined the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Network, one of our seven diversity networks. Staff are allocated three days per year to take part in network activities. This enabled me to have time to be involved in the network and build on my communication and influencing skills. I worked alongside the senior leadership team to strive for equal representation of people across all areas of the organisation.

    I learnt a lot as an Administrator and used this experience to apply for a Volunteer Advisor role a year later. This role gave me a new challenge as I spent more time working with our Recovery Colleges to support their volunteers. This role also gave me an opportunity to support our clients to volunteer to aid in their recovery journey.

    Career development at its best

    Throughout my career here, I’ve had so many opportunities to shadow different teams, understand their work and take on tasks. This has helped me to develop numerous transferable skills, meaning two years on, I have been able to apply for a Housing First worker role.

    I love St Mungo’s and I am passionate about the work we do to end homelessness and support people to rebuild their lives. Alongside the diversity networks, St Mungo’s also offers structured and supportive line management, job shadowing, mentoring and coaching opportunities; all of which are aimed at encouraging staff to be the best that they can be in their current role and for a role that they may be working towards.

    We’re always looking for positive people with a can do attitude, consistently professional approach and who are passionate about doing their best to join our team. In return we can offer an exceptional employment deal shaped by what our people tell us they value. Find out more about our available roles in our careers pages.

    Team St Mungo’s climbs Scafell Pike!

    Image: St Mungo's climbs Scafell Pike play

    This September a group of 10 St Mungo’s clients climbed Scafell Pike, England’s highest peak. The challenge was the idea of St Mungo’s client and volunteer Mandy. She explains more about how she wanted to take part to remember all those who have died sleeping rough and to show it is possible to recover from homelessness.

    I’m Mandy, I live in Islington with my dog Skye and I volunteer for St Mungo’s, the charity that helps people experiencing homelessness. On 3 September, I stood on top of the highest peak in England and it was one of the proudest moments of my life.

    St Mungo’s helped me when I was sleeping rough

    Unfortunately, life hasn’t always been this good. Throughout my life, I have struggled with mental illness and, due to family problems, I found myself homeless. In 2014, I slept on the streets for two and a half weeks.

    Living on the streets became so tough that it led to an attempted suicide. However, after visiting a local church for a shower and some food, I was introduced to St Mungo’s. They offered Skye and myself a place in a hostel and I have lived in their accommodation ever since.

    I’ve come a long way since then, which is why last year I had the idea to climb a mountain with other people with experience of homelessness. I wanted to do this to show it is possible to recover from homelessness and to remember all those who aren’t as lucky as me, who have sadly died sleeping rough. Our first mountain in 2017 was Snowdon and this year, we chose Scafell Pike.

    Preparing for the 3,210ft summit

    So on 3 September 2018, we all caught the train from London to Penrith in the Lake District and nervously waited overnight for the next day’s climb.

    We were a mixed group of 10 men and women. Our age, our fitness, our hiking experience and our mental and physical health needs were all varied. But, we had one thing in common; we all knew what it felt to be homeless and we all wanted to prove that it is possible to recover from it. We did this alongside St Mungo’s staff, supporters and volunteers.

    After next to no sleep in our youth hostel in Borrowdale due to nerves and excitement, we set off the next day at 7.30am for Scafell Pike. Walking the streets of London is second nature for lots of us. However rocky, steep terrain is different and it became clear quite quickly that it was going to be a challenge to get us all to the top. In fact, half way up, our guides became concerned that some of the group would not make it.

    Reaching the peak

    It took resilience, determination and a lot of encouragement but every single person reached the peak. I’ll never forget that moment. I’ve spent my life hiding under a rock and suddenly I was on top of the highest one in England!

    What we didn’t realise, was that making our way down was going to be even harder. It took over 12 and a half hours before we arrived back at our youth hostel at 8pm in the evening.

    When my aching body got into bed that night, I thought about how far I’ve come in the last six years and how grateful I am that I now have a place to call home.

     

    Outreach on the streets of Connecticut

    This summer Ed Addison, Case Coordinator for St Mungo’s project Street Impact London, took part in an eye opening two week long cultural exchange programme, travelling to Connecticut in the USA to learn about their approach to supporting people who are sleeping rough. Ed explains more about the homelessness situation in New Haven, the challenges they face conducting outreach and what he has taken away from the experience.

    I travelled to the USA as part of the Transatlantic Practice Exchange run by Homeless Link, the national membership charity for organisations working directly with people who become homeless in England. I applied because I wanted to learn more about different approaches to engaging with and supporting people who are sleeping rough.

    Like much of New England, New Haven, a small city in Connecticut, has seen an unprecedented increase in rough sleeping. With long waiting lists for shelters and few other resources, my hosts, the Columbus House outreach team, have a challenge on their hands.

    Personal experience helps outreach work

    The outreach team explained to me that working with certain groups, like couples and people that don’t engage, can be challenging. They also told me about their own experiences of homelessness and how this helps them in their work.

    Recovery support specialist Stephanie said, “I too have been homeless and lived through this experience myself and used that experience to help others.”

    The team see a lot of people with mental health needs who also use alcohol or drugs, but place an emphasis on recovery.

    Stephanie explained that using lived experience to help others is a crucial part of the recovery programme, saying “[you] show them you can live through this experience and get to the other side.”

    Supporting others is its own reward

    What struck me is that, despite the challenges, the team were so motivated and passionate about their work. Their persistent and flexible approach provides a lifeline to those experiencing homelessness.

    As outreach worker Rhonda explained, “Someone helped me, so I am going to in return… It gives me a sense of satisfaction knowing that I am helping somebody to better their quality of life.”

    Applying learning in London

    The Street Impact London project I work for is all about supporting people who have experience of sleeping rough to sustain their lives off the street. I’ve been inspired by the multi-disciplinary approach in New Haven which brings essential services, including street psychiatry and healthcare, to people directly on the street.

    I’d like to highlight the challenges people have accessing support here in the UK and continue to ensure that St Mungo’s clients are given as much choice and decision making capacity in their recovery journey as possible.

    My time in New Haven has also highlighted the importance of a community based approach to working with rough sleepers. The experience is shaping the way I build relationships with people to encourage positive change in their lives.

    You can listen to an interview Ed conducted with the New Haven outreach team here.

    Find out more about Street Impact here.

    Homeless Link’s Transatlantic Practice Exchange is supported by the Oak Foundation and delivered in partnership with the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Placements are funded for five frontline homelessness staff to spend a fortnight in the United States, exploring different practice topics and sharing this learning on their return.

    How we’re supporting local authorities to help more people off the streets

    Image: St Mungo's outreach worker with person sleeping rough

    In March 2018 the government announced a targeted £30m fund to support local authorities with high numbers of people sleeping rough help more people off the streets. This funding is welcome, but scaling up and developing new services quickly and effectively can prove challenging. Petra Salva, Director of Outreach Services, and Julie Middleton, Head of Resourcing, explain how St Mungo’s is helping local authorities recruit for and deliver services that really make a difference.

    “We are currently working with 19 commissioners from local authorities,” says Julie. “When they found out they had been successful in applying for the new funds, they realised that some of the services would need to be set up by the end of August. It quickly became clear that we would need to recruit over 90 staff to get these new services up and running ahead of winter.

    “But recruitment naturally slows down in the middle of the summer – and with the hot weather, summer holidays and World Cup football we knew it would be even harder.”

    Effective planning and processes

    Building on St Mungo’s long-standing success in recruiting outreach workers and learning from how other organisations have managed a rapid scale up of their workforce, we set up a talent pool recruitment pilot project, involving colleagues in HR, Services and Business Development.

    Over six weeks, we set up ten open days in London, Bournemouth, Bristol and Brighton to give candidates the opportunity to hear about St Mungo’s, our services and the roles we were recruiting for. The sessions were facilitated by experienced operational staff and, when possible, some of our clients, so candidates could hear about homelessness from people directly involved in delivering and receiving support from our rough sleeping services.

    “Our aim was to give people the opportunity to talk to people who currently work in these services and share the challenges they face, set expectations and hear what they love about their work,” said Petra. “It was also an opportunity for people to ask questions about St Mungo’s and understand more about the work we do.”

    Tailored recruitment campaigns

    Behind the scenes, two dedicated Resourcing Advisors managed the recruitment process. “When you’re quickly responding to a big recruitment campaign, you need effective planning, recruiting methods and processes, as well as technology to help you manage a high volume of applicants,” said Monique, Resourcing Advisor.

    We tailored the recruitment campaigns to ensure we could attract people who had never worked in homelessness services before but who had transferable skills and wanted to actively take part in reducing rough sleeping.

    As a result of the advertising, we received 604 expressions of interest, reviewed 392 job applications and so far we have offered 53 positions. We have another 14 interview days scheduled during September.

    Delivering for clients and partners

    “What I am the most proud of is that we didn’t compromise on our recruitment processes,” said Julie. “We have a robust competency-based recruitment process which includes online tests, written exercises and role plays, in addition to the usual job application and interview.”

    “This means it may take us longer to recruit people and some candidates may drop out along the way, but we know it is a risk worth taking to honor our primary commitment – providing excellent services to our clients and partners.

    “It has proved a great success so far and we are hoping to recruit a further 42 posts during the second phase.”

    “We have learnt a lot from this project and are looking at ways we can build on this experience to further improve our approach in future,” added Petra.

    Find out more about St Mungo’s services models and see our latest vacancies.

    A turning point in the history of rough sleeping?

    As the Government publishes its new Rough Sleeping Strategy, Beatrice Orchard, St Mungo’s Head of Policy, Campaigns and Research, welcomes a good first step, but calls for more work to ensure no one has to sleep rough ever again

    At the last count 4,751 people were sleeping rough on any one night in England. Each one vulnerable to poor health, violence and premature death. No one should have to suffer the damaging long-term consequences of not having a roof over their head or the support they need.

    Rough sleeping is a problem caused by many individual, structural and societal factors. There are no quick solutions, but that doesn’t mean rough sleeping can’t be solved.

    Stopping the scandal

    Shocked, like others at the sharp rise in rough sleeping since 2010, St Mungo’s launched its Stop the Scandal campaign to demand a new cross-government strategy to end rough sleeping.

    The snap General Election in 2017 provided an opportunity to work with other homelessness charities to make rough sleeping a priority for politicians, and both the Conservative and Labour parties committed to end rough sleeping in their election manifestos.

    The Government’s target is to end rough sleeping by 2027 and this week it has published a rough sleeping strategy as a first step towards realising this vision of a country where no one has to sleep rough.

    A good first step

    The strategy is backed by £100 million to fund measures to prevent rough sleeping, help people off the street quickly and support them to settle into a home. It’s a really good first step.

    The Somewhere Safe to Stay pilots will provide more emergency accommodation where people in crisis can have their needs assessed quickly, in safety away from the street. It is vital these services are targeted at those at immediate risk of sleeping rough, as well as those already on the street. Getting this approach right should pave the way for desperately needed reforms, preventing people sleeping rough in the first place.

    The initial investment in health services for people who sleep rough, in support for non-UK nationals and in floating support services to help people hang on to their home is also welcome.

    The challenges ahead

    The big challenge for the Government, and where the strategy falls short, is providing enough stable, safe and affordable housing. According to the evaluation of the Rough Sleepers Initiative in the 1990s, 5,500 people were housed in 3,500 units of permanent accommodation in London alone over a nine year period. Delivering more homes for people with a history of rough sleeping should be an urgent priority for the Government and housing providers.

    The strategy pledges to learn from new evidence in order to scale up and roll out programmes. We will be holding the Government to this pledge. We must move on from pilots and short-term cash injections and towards a long-term plan and investment.

    When it comes to learning lessons, there is a particularly welcome commitment to ensure there are more reviews into the deaths of people who die while rough sleeping to help services improve. It is desperately sad that this commitment is even needed, but the rising number of rough sleeper deaths is another reminder of why this strategy has to mark the turning point in the history of rough sleeping in our country.

    We share the Government’s vision of a future where no one has to sleep rough. But this is only the first step. While the new rough sleeping strategy is important, to meet their target of ending rough sleeping by 2027, the government must set out a plan to stop people becoming homeless in the first place.

    That’s why we’re launching a new campaign in the autumn calling on the government to end rough sleeping for good. Be the first to hear all about it – sign up to campaign with us today.

    “The dignity and respect she deserved”

    Image: Map of London

    St Mungo’s project worker, Shayeena, explains how the Street Impact project enabled her to provide innovative, holistic support for our client June when she really needed it

    Working at St Mungo’s you sometimes receive some difficult phone calls. But last week I got a call that really made me smile.

    I received a voicemail from a man who had recently been bereaved. He said he was a relative of June, and was sorting out her affairs. While he was doing this he came across her old phone, and by looking at the messages she had saved, he came to understand more about June’s story, and the part St Mungo’s had played in helping her rebuild her life after experiencing homelessness. He had called to thank me for all our support for her.

    I met and supported June. She told me she had come to the UK from Ghana in 2002, fleeing domestic violence, on a three-month tourist visa. She overstayed her visa and worked informally, before borrowing a friend’s document to get official work in a supermarket.

    However, in 2010 she was diagnosed with a serious illness and her accommodation and social networks started to break down. She ended up rough sleeping in central London and eventually was picked up and placed into a detention centre.

    At this time St Mungo’s had just established our Street Impact project, which was designed to develop innovative ways to tackle rough sleeping in London. It was the first such project to be funded by a Social Impact Bond (SIB). This meant the running costs were funded by social investors, who were reimbursed by the Greater London Authority on a ‘payments-by-results’ basis.

    This meant we only received payment if it achieved certain agreed outcomes, including reducing rough sleeping and helping people into tenancies, while working with a group of 415 rough sleepers.

    Payment by results meant we were free to innovate in the ways we supported people, and take a much more holistic model in helping them rebuild their lives. June was among those 415 people.

    When we contacted the detention centre about June they told us she had been released but gave us no other information. We eventually tracked her down in north London. We sent her a letter with our phone number and she called us straight away.

    At that point June was 69, depressed, withdrawn, clearly isolated and in need of assistance. While in detention, she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer but was still living on £35 vouchers per week and sharing a room with a lady suffering from post-traumatic stress who would wail throughout the night, meaning that June was getting very little sleep.

    The Home Office eventually granted June exceptional Leave to Remain on medical grounds. Alongside her solicitor, I was able to support June through this stressful experience, and then help June to get a home in a sheltered housing scheme. This was an incredibly complicated process, involving her council’s homelessness team, supported housing team and social services.

    Because of the innovative way we were able to work within Street Impact, however, I could support June with everything from taxi fares to hospital visits, gathering evidence for an appeal and securing donations of furniture. Eventually we were able to establish a support network for June that included medical staff, social workers, the local hospice, a minister from her local church and a St Mungo’s palliative care volunteer.

    We also helped her to stay in contact with her family in Ghana, which had become harder for her as her speech deteriorated. She was 70 by then, not used to computers, and found it hard to speak on the phone. With her consent, I started emailing her family and asked her daughter to send photos of her young granddaughter (who June had never seen) and printed these all out for her and framed a couple so she could keep them in her living room. She was so happy to have these… I remember her laughing with joy and looking at the prints over and over again. In her final years she was treated with dignity and respect that she deserved.

    Much of this would have been impossible under a more conventional outreach model. Despite everything she had been through, I think June managed to trust me and my colleagues and this allowed us to help her.

    Find out more about Street Impact.

     

    A safe, secure future for homeless hostels

    The government’s decision to not go ahead with proposed changes to funding for supported housing is a victory for our #SaveHostels campaign. Robyn Casey, St Mungo’s Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer, explains why this is so important and why we now need to secure funding for support costs

    This week the government announced that it will not go ahead with proposed changes to funding for supported housing, including homeless hostels.

    We have campaigned hard to protect funding for these life-saving services over the last two years. Our #Save Hostels campaign focused on this issue, and more than 12,000 people signed our petition calling on the government not to put homeless hostels at risk.

    We’re thrilled that the government has listened to us and our campaigners, and committed to continue using Housing Benefit to fund hostel housing costs.

    Why is it so important to fund housing costs in this way?

    Homeless hostels are a type of supported housing which help people to get back on their feet after a period of crisis as they look towards living independently. They enable people to live in a safe environment, while receiving support to rebuild their lives away from the street.

    Hostels are funded in two ways:

    • residents claim Housing Benefit to pay for the cost of their accommodation
    • the local council provides funding for the support staff who work closely with residents to help them to achieve their goals

    The government had proposed to change the way these services were funded by taking housing costs out of Housing Benefit. Instead, local councils would have been responsible for funding both housing and support costs.

    At St Mungo’s we were very concerned about these proposals. We felt they would have put homeless hostels at serious risk of closure, and left many people without anywhere to turn for support.

    The government stated that using local councils to distribute funding wouldn’t lead to a reduction in the amount of money available to services. This was a welcome reassurance, but our experience with this type of funding told a very different story.

    Funding for the support provided in our services has massively reduced over the past decade, after a ring-fence around this funding was removed. In fact, a report by the National Audit Office found that it has declined by 59 per cent since 2010. (PDF) This has left some services struggling to survive, and funding housing costs in the same way could have been devastating.

    Instead, the government has listened to calls from across the sector and retained funding within Housing Benefit.

    This means homeless hostels will have a stable income and a more secure future. We will continue to be able to invest in improving existing services and developing new ones and, crucially, provide safe places for people to stay and rebuild their lives after sleeping rough.

    What next?

    Increased oversight

    Housing costs within supported housing can be higher than in other rented properties. This is because there is a higher turnover of residents, and additional costs for the maintenance of communal spaces. The government recognises that these additional costs are justified, but would like to increase oversight of the sector to make sure that taxpayer money is being used effectively.

    St Mungo’s would welcome the opportunity to contribute to these plans. We are proud of the services we provide and the support we give our clients, and look forward to working with the government to ensure that the high standards we hold ourselves to is reflected across all services.

    A long term, strategic approach to funding for support

    While the government’s decision on housing costs is very welcome, there is still work to be done to restore funding for support costs. We are pleased that the government has also announced that it will review housing related support to better understand how the system currently works. We look forward to working with them on this issue and demonstrating the need for a secure support system which is fit for the future.

    But there is much more to be done to make sure that everyone has a safe and secure place to live. That’s why we’re launching a new campaign in the autumn calling on the government to end rough sleeping for good. Be the first to hear all about it – sign up to campaign with us today.

    Making London Bridge green

    Victoria has been working at St Mungo’s Putting Down Roots project in London Bridge since 2014. She tells us what the project has achieved and what she’s got out of it herself

    How long have you have been working with Putting Down Roots (PDR) in London Bridge?

    I’ve been working at London Bridge almost from the start in various capacities: firstly as a client in spring 2014, then as sole trader, locum and since last December I’ve been working here full time.

    What does the LDN Bridge project involve?

    We are working with Team London Bridge, the Business Improvement District for the area. We work with them to make areas greener. Not the whole of London Bridge, the council looks after some of the public spaces. But we have about eight sites from Borough High Street leading down to Tower Bridge Road. We’re at the NCP car park opposite the Greenwood Theatre which we also maintain. That was a really interesting project with Joe Swift and Zandra Rhodes. We  have a hub on Melior Street where we do a bit of training with our clients and we’ve got a small scale allotment. Then there’s Snowfields Primary School where I teach workshops. Through these workshops we have a link to Borough Market and I grow veg with the children for the Borough Market young marketeers event..

    What challenges have you faced?

    The challenge is that in such a densely populated area we must deal with plant damage and litter. As a project we are looking at training up people to go and work in gardening jobs. The chances are the jobs will be with the council or in that sort of environment. So this is a perfect training ground. They learn a lot about keeping themselves safe and members of the public safe. The urban area isn’t a massive challenge. As long as we’ve got permission to green up the space, we just get to it as long as we’ve got good soil and a water supply.

    What are you proudest of?

    Personally I am most proud of my young marketeers. Though it’s not really in my job spec, I get a lot of enjoyment from it. The children are so enthusiastic and learn and retain so well. They’re just enthused by growing vegetables and selling. I feel like I’m bringing something to inner city children that they might not necessarily get anywhere else. A lot of them live in flats around here, they don’t have gardens or even balconies.

    Regarding the project in this area, I am proudest of how we are managing to maintain green spaces in such an urban area. And doing that alongside some really fantastic people who just fell on hard times I guess. It’s wonderful when you can work alongside someone and they start to turn up earlier and earlier in the morning.They start to take ownership of specific places that they enjoy working at. That’s why I do this job.

    Have you got any nice feedback from members of the public?

    Oh gosh yeah, all the time. Whenever we’re out people will pass by and comment about how beautiful things are. Or they remember when it wasn’t such a green area. It’s lovely.

    Read about how Victoria was honoured by the Royal Horticultural Society

    We’d like to thank the teams at Network Rail and Team London Bridge for their support and dedication towards making the pop-up garden day in London Bridge on 7 August 2018 such a great success.

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