South London’s homeless to get free mental health counselling from charity Evolve

Homeless people in South London can get free counselling sessions provided by Evolve Housing + Support over the next two years.

The homelessness charity secured a £69,000 grant from the City Bridge Trust to provide 12-week in-house counselling sessions across its hostels in Croydon, Bromley, Lambeth, Merton and Kensington and Chelsea.

The new funding allowed the counselling service to re-start in April for over-18s after being piloted in May 2015.

In a testimonial an Evolve customer struggling with alcohol abuse said: “My counsellor has been amazing though it hasn’t been easy.

“More sessions than not, I’ve come out with a smile on my face. And If I’ve been upset, I’ve gone home and had a cup of tea and realised it wasn’t as hard as I thought.

“I’ve never opened up to anyone before like this. I wish I had done this 50 years ago, but I know that this was the right time.”

Another customer said: “Sometimes it takes someone else to say something to you to hear it and for things to click into place.

“Sometimes with me, a lot of it is having someone there to listen makes me realise that there are people out there who will help and will listen and who understand.

“It gives you a bit more faith in people in the world, and I don’t like people too much. But the counselling itself really helped.”

More than 500 homeless people have benefited from tailored counselling sessions, which have a three week waiting time.

Evolve’s director of operations Debra Ives said: “People were saying to us that they wanted to access counselling and they were having increasingly long waits through the normal routes.”

“Our customers have been through a lot and getting them the services they need quickly can be difference between them going into a mental health crisis,” she added.

“We wouldn’t stop the counselling [at the end of 12 weeks] if some said they really needed more sessions; we don’t have to ration because we’re not the NHS.”

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust talking therapies includes counselling in Croydon and Lambeth available to people aged 18 and over who are registered with a GP.

Initial phone assessment waiting times in Lambeth are around three weeks, followed by a three-month counselling waiting time for approximately six sessions.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock pledged £1.9million funding to councils from Public Health England to improve access to NHS services for homeless people with mental health issues on May 10.

External referrals are accepted from Evolve’s partners Crisis in Croydon and Peer Circles, a partnership with St Giles Trust.

Most referrals are received during Christmas and the winter months and the service is overseen by a clinical supervisor and counselling coordinator then delivered by vetted volunteer trainee councillors in the final stages of counselling qualifications.

Evolve counselling coordinator Jenna Soame said: “Because we work with people with complex needs it really important to get the right councilors on board in the first place.”

She added: “This [counselling] isn’t a magic thing, it’s very much an ongoing process, so if someone says we’ve helped them maintain a stable level that’s important.”

Evolve houses over 2,000 homeless people every year helping them to rebuild their lives and live independently. Find more information here.

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