Reflecting on my first year as Chair, I’ve been both humbled and inspired by the resilience and determination of everyone at Evolve, as we seek to navigate the challenges brought about by COVID. The learning we acquired within the first year of the pandemic, has enabled us to continue to adapt and respond to the changing needs of people without homes, despite the restrictions that we have all faced.
Over this last year, we have exceeded our own targets to resettle more young people into suitable, independent accommodation, whilst also supporting more of our homeless residents to gain meaningful employment and access vocational training opportunities. This has been achieved against a backdrop of reduced access to wider public services and resources brought about by the pandemic.
This year, Evolve launched its career change programme to attract the very best of talent to our organisation. Through this initiative we have recruited staff from a wide range of backgrounds and professions, all of whom share our common goal to make a real contribution to ending homelessness. As our economy and labour market adapts to a post-pandemic world, we hope that others who share our values and purpose will also consider joining Evolve and embarking on a meaningful career for years to come.
We know that the pandemic has also impacted on the mental health of many of our staff and homeless residents. In response to this, we agreed that supporting the wellbeing of everyone at Evolve should be a key priority within our Corporate Plan. As part of this commitment, we have provided structured counselling to more than 100 service users during the pandemic. We have also delivered 120 mental health recovery focused workshops thanks to the support of our charitable donors. We also trained and deployed staff volunteers as mental health first aiders, to further support colleagues in maintaining their own wellbeing.
Building on the work of the previous year, we have constituted our Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion group to deliver on our commitment to ensure equal opportunities for everyone at Evolve. This group is chaired by a member of our Board and has already made great progress in adapting our polices, and practices to ensure they remain inclusive for all. This included all aspects of our recruitment and career progression processes, through actively addressing unconscious bias in our selection processes, and creating greater transparency around staff remuneration.
On behalf of myself and the Board, I would like to thank everyone who has continued to support Evolve over this last year. Whether as a staff member, donor, commissioner or volunteer, your contribution makes a real difference, and enables us to help more people to overcome the ignominy of homelessness and build better and brighter futures.
To protect and reassure our staff, we immediately committed to paying full pay for any and all absences related to coronavirus
Launched the Covid-19 Emergency Appeal for homeless people in our services.
Wrote to all our homeless residents about Covid-19.
Issued Infection Control Guidance to support staff to work safely.
Closed head office and informed staff from central teams to work from home.
Updated staff on access to schools for key workers.
Launched emergency fundraising appeal.
Official UK lockdown announced.
Stopped all visitors/guests/non-essential visitors from entering our services
Provided information on priority access to shops for our key workers.
Contacted Local Authority partners to arrange parking for staff who can drive to work in order to avoid public transport.
First virtual board meeting.
Letter issued to all staff confirming their role and that they are essential workers.
Flow chart distributed to homelessness services on managing symptoms.
Amended our resident database to enable the recording of Covid-19 related concerns.
Stopped bank workers covering shifts in different services/moving between services.
Issued advice to teams on supporting residents who use substances.
Increased Leadership Team meetings to three times a week and all Managers’ meetings to twice a week.
Issued guidance for high risk staff.
Redeployed colleagues with customer support experience to cover shifts in services.
Staff were furloughed where appropriate to protect them, the organisation and our homeless residents.
Resources for staff on wellbeing developed and shared.
Began working with Local Authority partners on managing residents who refuse to comply with self-isolation and social distancing.
Started ‘Cheer for Colleagues’ to highlight their incredible work.
Made information about testing for staff available.
Launched video updates from Leadership Team and sent to all staff with essential information from Government and new guidance.
Four members of the Leadership Team cover shifts on the bank holiday to reduce agency spend and support colleagues in services.
Communicated with colleagues who have experience of working with our homeless residents to cover shifts in services with high absences.
Amended our policy and procedures to change working practices. This ensured staff and residents were kept safe.
Our Health + Wellbeing team issued information, guidance, advice and tips for colleagues on how to deal with bereavement.
Provided free in-house weekly yoga lessons to colleagues.
Started the process of conducting individual risk assessments for everyone in the organisation.
Issued guidance on self-isolation and quarantine rules for colleagues returning from holidays abroad.
Extended our head office closure, and reminded colleagues of infection control in services.
Issued guidance for colleagues on getting a flu vaccination.
Sent information on Tier 2 in London to staff.
Reiterated Government message on national Lockdown.
Adapting our services to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has meant a great deal of change. It has required a tailored approach to each of our services and ongoing reviews to ensure we continue to provide a high standard of support for our homeless residents. Read on to learn how some of our services adapted.
We moved quickly to put measures in place to support both the staff and the 80 single homeless residents living at our service.
Residents at Alexandra House range from 18 to 65 years old and have a range of support needs. As soon as we received advice from the government around social distancing and staying safe, information was sent out to all of our homeless residents. Posters were put up all around the service explaining the guidance and what to do. […]
It has been a challenging but empowering few months managing mental health homelessness services during the Covid-19 pandemic. Based in Croydon, our service consists of Eva House, Emily House, and Crocus House and supports 27 people experiencing mental ill-health.
Supporting people who have been diagnosed with mental health conditions, such as paranoid schizophrenia, particularly concerned myself and the team. […]
Coronavirus has had an impact on all of our services, but even more so on services such as the Somewhere Safe to Stay Hub (SStSH) which provides a rapid response to rough sleepers.
On Friday 20 March a decision was reached with Croydon Council not to take any new referrals for into the SStSH. This enabled us to reduce the capacity of the service where multiple people were sleeping in a single room, to prevent the spread of Covid-19. […]
Evolve’s 1-1 counselling service has been running for a number of years with tremendous success.
The programme was set up with the aim to promote good mental health and wellbeing that is free to all our homeless residents, with an emphasis on providing quality and professional counselling in a confidential and safe setting. […]
How we worked
It was vitally important to continue meeting with our commissioners to agree new and safe ways to deliver our services.
Furthermore, we understood the importance of monitoring any Covid-19 cases (suspected or confirmed) and set up reporting mechanisms internally and with Local Authorities within all services.
Early on, we made the decision to create a ‘risk map’ to manage our response to the pandemic. This allowed us to assess all areas of the organisation to identify risk, impact and controls which in turn enabled us identify the priority areas for controls and actions needed. We shared this with our commissioners and stakeholders, and have updated it regularly in response to government guidance and developments. This helped identify further risks as lockdown eased, and is allowing us to adapt quickly as restrictions tightened again in November.
To ensure efficiency, operational decisions were communicated via our Area Managers initially. These were then drawn together into guidance on how to deliver a service during the pandemic, including enhanced infection control procedures and pandemic specific policies around medication, tenure management and referrals.
Changes to our On-Call rota
We rightly anticipated an increase in demand for our out of hours on-call support, especially in the initial period where people were worried or unclear on what to do if someone was symptomatic.
Our ‘on-call’ provision consists of a first and second tier, and we implemented an increased on-call payment and a back-up on-call system. Both first and second tier had a back-up they could call, should they need to attend site or should the volume of calls require further assistance.
We were also clear that if staff on-call had been so busy overnight that they had no rest period, they would be supported by their Area Manager to take the following day off work, helping to avoid burnout.
PPE and Infection control
In line with government guidance, our infection control procedures, including the use of PPE, were updated where necessary. As PPE would be required not just when dealing with a specific incident but also when staff and residents are unable to maintain the required social distance, we were going to need larger supplies. We immediately centralised the ordering of PPE and focused administrative resources on our Facilities Team to place orders. We also increased the number of suppliers, and implemented an ordering form for services to send to our Facilities Administrator on a weekly basis.
We began monitoring stock levels of PPE at the start of the pandemic, and have since started to build a stock of PPE. We have worked with our Local Authority partners to ensure we don’t experience shortages during the second wave, and are making use of their supply chains and donations. We are centrally coordinating the distribution of stock to ensure all of our services have an adequate supply of PPE.
Closing Head Office
As soon as it became clear that the government was going to require those who could work at home to do so, we made arrangements to close our office at Kingston Road. We completed the close down by Friday 20 March before the lockdown was announced.
We have continued to keep our Head Office closed, with all of our central teams working from home.
Within a week of lockdown, we had almost 100 colleagues successfully set up and working remotely. We have provided laptops to staff who would otherwise be without appropriate equipment, and have implemented a strategy to improve our IT and communication systems, particularly video conferencing and access to sound on all devices across the organisation.
The impact of the pandemic came at a significant cost. Between March and June we lost 2076 staff work days directly due to Covid-19 related absences, in comparison to 2094 days lost throughout the whole year 2019/2020. The cost of this was immense. Yet the need to keep our services open was our top priority.
Fundraising was integral to our strategy to overcome the financial impact of the pandemic and ensure we could keep our vital services going throughout the pandemic.
The Evolve Sleep ‘In’
In 2019, our Sleep Out event attracted over 160 people. We raised £75k to help us continue delivering our Work + Learning and Health + Wellbeing programmes, which are available to all our homeless residents. This year, amid event fatigue and already lower expected numbers, reports of the London Marathon and other mass participation event cancellations began to hit headlines as the pandemic took hold.
Our Sleep Out 2020 was planned for 29 March, and so we had to act quickly. We made changes to the event messaging to make it clear to everyone taking part the huge financial impact of the pandemic on our work, and the need to keep our frontline services open and safe.
What did we do?
Cancelled original plans for the Sleep Out
Created a safe and appropriate online alternative:- Sleep Out Plan B: the ‘Sleep In’
Confirmed support from our sponsors – Croydon Business Improvement District, AMP House, Baydale and Property Furniture Letting Solutions
Contacted those that had pledged to Sleep Out and invited new people to take part
What did it achieve?
Amid the disruption that Covid-19 had caused at the beginning of lockdown, around 16 people took part
Social media engagement in the form of photos, messages of support and friends and families sharing stories were shared widely
Evolve Ambassador Bianca Miller-Cole, her husband Byron and their team all joined the Sleep Out – Plan B, taking to hard floors and gardens in sleeping bags
Covid-19 Emergency Appeal
As the cost of staffing our services with a 20% absence rate became evident, our Fundraising and Communications Team swiftly launched an emergency Covid-19 fundraising appeal to the public.
We set up an appeal page, emailed our supporters and began a social media campaign explaining our needs.
A new supporter, Louise Dalton heard our story, and wrote and recorded a beautiful spoken word piece which we shared across our social media channels.
Over 230 people donated to our emergency appeal. New fundraisers also set up their own pages doing various challenges, including two supporters who did seven half marathons in seven days, raising over £4k.
We also raised donations, grants and funding from Marks and Spencer/Neighbourly, LandAid Covid-19 Emergency Fund, London Community Response Fund, Charity Relief Fund and the Walcott Foundation which allowed us to install WiFi in our Stockwell young people’s accommodation.
One of the early challenges we recognised was the struggle our homeless residents had accessing food. Supermarkets struggled to keep up with demand and limited the number of certain products that one person could purchase, while some of our regular food donations stopped as businesses closed.
This had an impact on our residents who needed to self-isolate, and on those who could not afford more expensive food options when cheaper alternatives were not available.
Our Fundraising Team quickly began a campaign to ask local supporters and businesses to donate food. We were overwhelmed by the generosity from the communities in which we work. We also received donations of PPE, something else that was in short supply, and much needed to keep our staff and residents safe.
Submitted 17 applications to trust funders between March and July
Provided significant data to Local Authorities and worked with them to understand the additional costs
Responded to relevant news stories through press releases and on social media, ensuring that our voice was heard as we campaigned for funding and support to ensure the safety of our residents and colleagues.
We are very grateful for the additional financial support we received from the London Boroughs of Croydon, Merton, Lambeth and Bromley, and from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea which helped us meet the additional costs.
Through fundraising we have ensured we remain financially stable and we continue to adapt the way in which we work to meet the changing environment. We would like to say an enormous thank you to all our supporters who have helped us so generously during this challenging time.
In June, we issued a statement recognising that the issue of racism, surrounding the murder of George Floyd and others like him, is not simply specific to the US.
The systemic racism faced by Black people in the UK is our collective responsibility to change and it is vital that we work to understand and acknowledge this to create a more equal future, both for our colleagues and residents.
Knowing that actions speak louder than words, we pledged to:
Continue to support Black people to identify and fight discrimination in the workplace.
Actively amplify the voices of our Black colleagues + residents to dismantle and educate on inequality.
Create a more equal and diverse environment to ensure people feel they can freely speak to management about diversity and inclusion.
Meet regularly with the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion group to review our decisions and make certain we are doing what’s necessary to put an end to divisions and disadvantage for our Black colleagues.
The fight for equality, diversity and inclusion starts with honest conversations and we will be speaking to our residents individually regarding how they feel about the Black Lives Matter movement.
We have a long way to go as an organisation, but we are holding ourselves accountable and we will keep this at the top of our agenda. It is our responsibility to do everything we can to stand up to racism and help tackle every form of prejudice. The time for change is now and we will be working with colleagues and residents to take more progressive steps forward and put an end to racism.
Since our first statement, we have recruited an Equality Diversity and Inclusion Advisor, to work with us to action these promises.
It’s clear that living in a more inclusive world where connection, community and people are prioritised is the only way to ensure everyone can bring their full self to work. Within supported housing we know that Black and Brown people, care leavers and ex-offenders are disproportionately affected. […]
During Black History Month, we asked our residents and colleagues what it meant personally to them. Read on to learn more about the personal importance of this incredible month of reflection.
We asked our residents and colleagues what Black History Month meant to them. Read on to learn more about the personal importance of this incredible month of reflection. Words by Evolve resident Akua For me, Black History Month is a time to celebrate, reflect on history and appreciate Black culture. There are so many learnings […]
We asked our residents and colleagues what Black History Month meant to them. Read on to learn more about the personal importance of this incredible month of reflection. Words by Evolve colleague Peter McCarthy Black History Month (BHM) is usually a time of remembrance and reflection for me. I remember throughout my teenage and adolescent […]
We asked our residents and colleagues what Black History Month meant to them. Read on to learn more about the personal importance of this incredible month of reflection. Words by Evolve resident Tyrell To me Black History Month resembles a moment of appreciation for the excellence and culture that Black individuals have brought forth into […]
In Summer 2020, we launched our Homelessness Stories page. This gave our residents a platform to reveal through their own words, their experience of homelessness and how they found their pathway back to independence with support from Evolve.
Everyday Tyrell gazes out of his window and up at the Alto apartments that stand out looking over London. “That’s the apartment block I want to retire in. It’s an empowering thing to wake up and see that building every day. That’s where I want to be. Before I even came to Evolve that was […]
Donna’s eager to get her laptop working, she’s been doing e-learning courses to retrain as a sign language therapist. “I just need to get these brain cells working,” she says. Sitting in an office in her supported housing in Croydon, it’s clear she’s brimming with determination to get back to work. Things started to go […]
I served a life sentence then slept rough in a park for nine months When Wayne smiles it’s like clouds parting. Prison and then homelessness have swallowed a third of his life but he’s come out the other side. At 50, he’s putting it all behind him. He’s calm now, happy even. It all started […]
Sam provides one to one and group-mentoring support in three secondary schools in Lambeth and Lewisham. We were due to roll out a Lunch-Time Literacy and ‘Parked’ Detention mentoring support after school, with the support of a volunteer mentor, but due to the pandemic, this hasn’t yet been possible.
One to one work supports Year 7 to Year 11 students with self-esteem, and confidence issues, those not engaging in their education, and coping and resilience, to better equip them for the challenges of life. The group mentoring is a great help for Year 7s starting secondary school and supports them to settle into ‘Big School’.
One of our schools in Lambeth requested that we work with their underachieving Black Caribbean boys in Year 11, to encourage and motivate them.
During the coronavirus school lockdown, Sam continued to support the mentees via telephone contact, as well as supporting parents where there was a need. When the schools re-opened in September, Sam returned to assist in lunchtime activities and support the teachers where they need it.
She has also provided well-being materials to all of our mentees and parents to help provide ideas, and encouragement while they were home-schooling, and sent these materials to all three schools, for pupils of parents who are key workers to access.
*Names of mentees and parents have been changed to protect identities and honour privacy.
We remain incredibly proud and confident in our abilities to support Evolve residents on their journey to independence. In spite of the pandemic, thanks to our quality accommodation, accomplished and dedicated staff, and the vital life-changing programmes we offer, over three quarters of our residents have moved into independence this year.
Click on the map below to see our top performing services.
*Figures show the percentage of people who have moved on to independence
Outcomes achieved by our homeless residents
Adetoun Isikalu, Alice Attard, Alice Boyle, Alice Golding, Andrew Baue, Andy Redfearn, Anita Kaur, Anna Arthur, Anouska Tamony, Arti Patel, Ayiesha Herrera, Bethany Gill, Bianca Miller-Cole, Brett McKinney, Bruce Pope, Byron Cole, Cllr Caragh Skipper, Carrie Smith, Carruthers Bediako, Charlie Rew, Charles Gabriel, Chris Belton, Chris Griffin, Christian Rodwell, Christopher Boyle, Daniel Griggs, Danny Sutcliffe, David Speed, Deborah Phillips, Deborah Robertson, Di Gorton, Ellie Charman, Fidelis Shonde, Frances Ward, Francesca Gubbay, Gabriele Neuditcshko/ James Rogers, George Wheeler, Hamish Kilburn, Hannah Cleaton, Hannah Ward, Paris, Harry Ives, Harvey Eagles, Jack Rathborn, James Brewin, Jenni Steele, Jennie Blake, Jennifer Blake, Joe Bennett, Johnny Wolf, Jonathan Riches, Josie Evans, Juliet Stevenson, Kamal Uddin, Karolina Poloczek, Kate Langhorne, Kira Blake, Lauren Court, Lee Ginger, Louise Williams, Luca Criscuolo, Lucy Powling, Maggie George, Cllr Manju Shahul-Hameed, Marianne Lee, Mark Colhoun, Martin McDowell, Matt Kelly, Matthew Sims, Matty Garner, Michael Mcinerney, Natasha Grey, Neil Walker, Nez Carey, Nick Hudson, Nicolette Billings, Olivia Bugg, Pammy Pimms, Patrick Sheehan, Phillip Gray, Rajan Amin, Rob Frier, Robert King, Saffron Saunders, Sam Phelps, Samantha Hyman-Knight, Samuel Brunt, Sarah Bryant, Sarah Cusack, Sarah Dean, Sarah Emmins, Sarah Jones MP, Sharif Sendagire, Sherene Headley, Simone Waring, Siobhan Doyle, Stella Gbolonyo, Stephen Hammond, Steve Keith, Sue Fenwick Elliot, Tabs Francis, Team Truuli, Thanu Shiyamaleswaran, Tom Shewry, Tracey Vaughan, Truuli, Victoria Mongi, Wendy Cleaton, Will Rastal
London Borough of Croydon, London Borough of Merton, London Borough of Lambeth, London Borough of Bromley, London Borough of Wandsworth, London Borough of Lewisham, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
Trusts and Foundations
Mayor of London’s Rough Sleepers Innovation Fund, City Bridge Trust, St Gilles Trust, Sir Walter St John Educational Charity, Neighbourly, LandAid, Walcot Foundation via London Community Response Fund, Campden Charities, National Lottery Communities Fund, London Hostels Association, BBC Children in Need
Food and PPE
Doughlicious, Nando’s, Holistic Wellness Hub, Doner Kebab, Chatsworth Bakehouse, The Central Gurdwara, Team Compliments, Croydon Voluntary Action (CVA), Homeless Link, Purley Food Hub, Deliveroo, Meat Liquor, Greggs, Croydon Covid-19 Mutual Aid Response group, COVID19 Crystal Palace Mutual Aid Response Group, Various individuals recruited through Facebook and the communities in which we work, Co-op Lansdowne Rd, Croydon Mosque Womens’ Group, Tooting Community Kitchen, Chefs in Schools, Candy Mechanic
Corporates and Community Groups
Hagen & Hyde Pub, London Homeless Charities Group, Waitrose, Bromley Golf Club, William Morris Pub, Lush, St Helier Hospital
Chair of Audit Committee
Audit Committee Members
Director of Operations
Director of Corporate Services and Company Secretary
Director of People and Culture
Deputy Director of Operations
Head of Business Development
Charity law requires charities to make a statement regarding fundraising activities. The legislation defines fundraising as ‘soliciting or otherwise procuring money or other property for charitable purposes’. Such amounts receivable are presented in in other operating income.
We have a Fundraising Strategy and a Stakeholder Engagement Strategy, both approved by our Board. We do not work with any professional fundraisers, or use cold calling or direct mail. We are registered with the Fundraising Regulator and comply with their code of practice. The day to day management of all income generation is delegated to the executive team who are accountable to the Directors.
We have received no complaints in relation to fundraising activities.