As we entered the new year, we did so against a dispiriting backdrop of the first increase in rough sleeping in the UK since the global pandemic. Far from being a ‘lifestyle choice’, we understand that the causes of homelessness are multi-faceted, resulting from social and economic disadvantage that often starts at a young age. Here at Evolve, we understand that there is no single route out of homelessness, and that the support we offer each customer should be tailored to their individual circumstances.
It is my pleasure to welcome you to Evolve’s annual report for 2023. I hope that you find it as encouraging and informative a read as we intend. Through the continued support from our charitable and statutory funders, we have been able to provide an even greater range of imaginative and impactful initiatives that make a real difference to the lives of everyone we support. Of course, this would not be possible without the unwavering commitment of our staff, and the Board and I remain grateful for their hard work over these last twelve months.
There have been many changes across our organisation over the last year. The most significant of these has been that Jeremy Gray, our Chief Executive, has retired from his role after fifteen years. Jeremy led the organisation from its origins as the South London YMCA into the dynamic and forward-looking organisation that we are today. Under his leadership Evolve has grown significantly, and provided housing and support services to more customers than at any previous point in its 160-year history. The Board and I would like to reiterate our thanks to Jeremy for his significant contribution, and wish him well in his future endeavors.
At the same time, we welcome our new CEO, Carmen White, who brings with her the skills, experience and passion required to lead Evolve in readiness for the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. The Board and I look forward to working with Carmen and the Leadership Team over the next 12 months to ensure that Evolve goes from strength to strength meeting the needs of everybody who depends on our support.
From March 2022 to April 2023 we continued to operate across five London Boroughs: Croydon, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Merton and Sutton.
In Kensington and Chelsea we maintained our presence in the form of two services for young people up to the age of 25: Beacon House and Burton White House.
Our Supported Housing South West Service managed a range of properties across Merton, and we have also continued to manage accommodation in Sutton as well.
In Croydon we remain the largest provider of supported housing, continuing to run multiple services. Our Mental Health Step Down service accommodates customers with higher needs across three buildings. Ingram Court in West Croydon and the Fitze Millenium Centre in Crystal Palace both work with young people up to the age of 25. Alexandra House and Palmer House have continued to support adults impacted by homelessness, although in both we are seeing increased need in terms of emotional wellbeing, substance misuse and physical health issues.
In addition to the work that has carried on from previous years, there have been changes to our service delivery as well.
In Croydon we re-opened our Somewhere Safe to Stay Hub, which provides emergency accommodation for up to one month to people threatened with immediate street homelessness. The service is located within Palmer House, takes referrals from Croydon Council, and is designed to respond rapidly to the needs of people who are at immediate risk of street homelessness. Once somebody is found by outreach teams and the council is alerted, we can be ready to accommodate them within hours.
We also significantly altered the way in which we work with young people in Lambeth. Working closely with Lambeth Council and other local organisations, we stopped delivering supported housing via one large housing block, King George’s House, in favour of smaller units based in several buildings on the same site. At the end of last year we were in the process of beginning our service delivery in this revised format, and are already very pleased with the results we are seeing.
Nobody can explain what it is like to stay at Evolve better than our customers. We support people from all sorts of backgrounds, who arrive with us having had all sorts of experiences. Here are three case studies of people we have worked with over the last year.
“I’d like to stay in mental health, maybe helping others in the same position as me.”
Hannah worked in supported accommodation herself, until certain life events forced her to stop working and eventually move to Evolve. She moved to Eva House in May 2022, after leaving a different supported housing service elsewhere in Croydon.
“I wanted to build a machine that would take me into a different world, a different life. That’s the good thing about acting – you can have a million lives.”
After arriving at Evolve, it didn’t take Ajani very long to start building the new life she had been thinking about. Something very different from what had come before.
“Over time I slowly started getting involved in things. I started to find out what was available and what help was on offer – there are workshops, mental health support, anything you need.”
Walter moved to Alexandra House in late 2020. We spoke to him two years on, and as we entered 2023 he had become a central part of much that happens at the service.
Last year saw the development of our Economic Social Prescribing (ESP) Programme. ESP represents a new way for us to support customers into work and learning opportunities, combining vocational training and support with health and wellbeing services. Ultimately, this can help them to leave homelessness behind for good.
What is ESP?
‘Social prescribing’ is gaining increasing prominence in the UK’s voluntary and health sectors. It involves connecting people with physical and emotional health issues and complex needs to social activities like volunteering, sports and community groups, as a form of treatment in place of medication.
Economic social prescribing uses the same approach to break down barriers that our customers face when trying to re-enter employment, education and training. Rather than just using traditional approaches like skills workshops or training, it makes use of creative, personalised solutions to people’s challenges. Our ESP programme therefore does incorporate areas of existing work, but delivers them in a different way and adds new elements.
The approach was trialed in Autumn 2022 and showed very promising results in terms of successfully connecting customers to new opportunities. Then, after a successful Christmas fundraising campaign, we were able to recruit two dedicated members of staff to deliver this programme: an ESP Coordinator and Psychological Wellbeing Therapist.
These two positions work alongside colleagues from across our services to deliver a range of outputs that support our customers. All of their work is focused on providing tailored combinations of emotional and practical support, in order to help customers thrive.
Outputs have included:
This work was beginning at the end of the last operational year, and we look forward to sharing more results as time progresses.
Between April 2022 and March 2023 our Health and Wellbeing programme continued to provide wide ranging support to our customers, focused on both physical health and emotional wellbeing.
Delivered by three Psychological Wellbeing Therapists (PWTs) and supported by volunteer counsellors, the programme offered a range of services:
As with all of our work, the team always adapts to the preferences of the individual that they are working with, so there were many other one-off activities carried out in the last year as well. Since the pandemic the use of video and telephone consultations has increased too, allowing our PWTs to reach more customers and work more efficiently by cutting down travel time between services.
We continue to see the levels of physical and mental health need in our services increase. We are supporting more people with complex traumas and serious mental health conditions. Many have histories of abuse, substance misuse and other past traumas. From April 2022 to March 2023 we also continued to see the longer term impacts of Covid-19. Lockdowns and other restrictions had placed significant strain on many people, increasing isolation and damaging both physical and emotional wellbeing.
In this context, the work of our Psychological Wellbeing Therapists has taken on even greater importance. We will continue this work over the next year, using tailored support to ensure that people are both physically and emotionally ready to leave homelessness behind for good.
We continue to place focus and energy on a wide range of colleague wellbeing activities; there are currently 27 separate initiatives, set out in our Colleague Wellbeing Strategy. Furthermore, this year we have implemented a colleague wellbeing calendar, with a different team taking the lead each month to share approaches they use to maintain their wellbeing. This has included colleagues running art therapy sessions, step challenges, and bake offs, as well as the sharing of tips about how to keep healthy when working different shift patterns.
We also recruited a cohort of apprentices to work in support roles. They have received lots of in-house training to start them on their path to becoming Support Workers, and 20% of their time is ring-fenced for completing external qualifications. We are very proud of our apprentices, and grateful to all our colleagues who have committed to developing them in our services.
Our Moving into Management programme has been an important part of development within Evolve for five years, and has enabled many colleagues to progress into management roles with confidence. We made some significant changes to the programme last year; it now provides bite-sized learning events for new and aspiring managers to support them in areas of their work such as assessing quality in services, managing a service budget, and getting the best performance from their team.
One way which we have strengthened the feeling of community in Evolve is to establish a range of colleague networks. Led by colleagues themselves, these provide safe spaces to talk, support each other and provide feedback to the Leadership Team from time to time. We have networks with a focus on mental health and emotional wellbeing, race and ethnicity, LGBTQIA+ and disability and neurodiversity.
We also reviewed our Race Action Plan, using input from colleagues collected via a confidential survey. We are excited to launch our next Plan, which will continue the work which are doing in the areas of inclusive recruitment and supporting colleagues to talk about race at work. We are also running a reverse mentoring pilot. Three pairs of senior managers are working with colleagues in other parts of the organisation to improve ways of working and internal communication through better understanding of other others’ daily experiences.
The 2022-23 year was another busy one for our fundraising team, who continued to raise money to support our work, especially our community programmes such as Health and Wellbeing and Economic Social Prescribing.
Trusts and foundations
We were fortunate to receive a number of grants, including £45,341 from Nationwide Community Grants, £25,000 from the London Hostels Association, and a further £151,969 from the National Lottery Community Fund.
Move53: was our summer challenge campaign, calling on the public to carry out an activity related to the number 53 to raise funds for us. We were really pleased at the uptake for the campaign, with numerous partners participating and raising a total of £9890.
The Big Give 2022: Last year was the second time we had taken part in the Big Give, a national match-funding campaign which gave donors the chance to have their gifts doubled. We raised funds for our Economic Social Prescribing programme, and were able to surpass our fundraising target to raise £21,735.
Partnerships with businesses and local community groups have remained essential to our fundraising efforts. We have strengthened relationships with businesses in a range of sectors including construction and retail, and these have yielded both financial support and gifts in kind like clothing and food. Partners have also run cause-related marketing campaigns for us, taken part in challenge events, and volunteered their time to support the work of our services directly.
We have also worked with local schools and faith groups to fundraise through collections. Raising awareness of our work, and the experiences of our customers, has also been a key part of this element of our fundraising.
Avraam, B., Belfon, H., Belton, C., Bennett, J., Berwick, N., Bott, M., Campbell, J., Campbell, G., Cole, A., Colhoun, M., Conway, R., Craddock, A., Ferary, H., Gajdecki, A., Garrett G., Grubb, F., Griggs, D., Hamilton-Warford, C., Fraser, C., Haw, J., Herbertson, D., Heslop, E., Hills, J., Hunter-Flack, J., Isikalu, A., Langan, S., McGrath, S., Newton, P., Norman, K,. Pheasant, A., Pitt, H., Pullen, C., Pullen, K., Routledge, G., Rushmore, K., Savill, R., Sharma, S., Soame, T and E., Shrimpton, D., Speed, M., Stratford, C., Taylor, J., Thompson, P., Thurston, P., Vardy, E., Visuvathasan, A., Ward, P., Williams, V., Williams-Campbell, D., Youngman, R., Yolande Zosia.
Greater London Authority, London Borough of Croydon, London Borough of Lambeth, London Borough of Merton, London Borough of Sutton, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Trusts and Foundations
National Lottery Communities Fund, London Hostels Association, Nationwide.
City Harvest, Co-operative Food, Costco, Coughlans Bakery, FoodCycle, Morrisons Wimbledon, Nando’s, Pizza Hut, Sainsbury’s, Sunshine Tropical Foods, Torchlight Ministries, Waitrose Wimbledon.
Corporates and Community Groups
A Touch of Vintage UK, ABC Maintenance Works, AECOM, Archway Building Consultancy, Bailey Garner, Brown & Green, Chaffinch Brook School, Chartwell, Chartwells, Colliers Wood Chorus, Constructing Excellence Croydon Club, Costco Croydon, Coversure Croydon, Crystal Palace Foundation, David Family Foundation, Eco Artist, Essence of Cake, Ethstat, Fidelity Energy, FareShare, House of Flora, Go Green Manage Services Ltd, Humbledough, Ideverde, Integrated Water Services, Ismaili Civic, JN Bank, Kensington & Chelsea Rotary Club, Life City Church, London Hostels Association, LSBU, Lush, Lyreco, Marks & Spencer, Maverick Group, MetroBank Croydon, Nando’s, National Lottery Communities Fund, Optimal Maintenance, OutsideIn, Peexo, PIB Insurance, Pirate Studios, Playle & Partners, Pret a Manger, Stonegrove, Suna Interior Design, Sunshine Tropical Ltd, The Body Shop, The Reed Foundation, Torchlight Ministries, Tropic Skincare, Tropic Skincare, Urban Installers, Winckworth Sherwood LLP, Zurich Community Trust.
Paul Perkin (Chair)
Evonne Coleman-Thomas (Audit Committee member)
Director of Operations
Deputy Director of Operations
Director of Corporate Services and Company Secretary
Director of People and Culture