Making a lasting change to the lives of people who are homeless in Croydon

Perception and Image
An interview with Debra Ives, Director of Operations
Evolve Housing + Support

Debra Ives, Director of Operations at Evolve Housing + Support has gained extensive experience and knowledge in working to support people who are homeless in Croydon. Ahead of SLEEP OUT 2020 on the 29th March, Croydon BID took the opportunity to speak with Debra about homelessness in Croydon at one of the key services here, Alexander House.

Evolve Housing + Support is an extremely well-respected charity that provides a range of services to homeless and vulnerable people within London. They provide much more than just a roof – they are a place of positive change and growth, enabling people to move on and lead independent lives.

Someone can be housed with Evolve if they are a single homeless person and have support needs (such as mental health, or a history of rough sleeping).  The local authority will refer relevant people to Evolve Housing + Support, who then interview them and tailor a programme to best meet their needs. So Evolve work at a very local level, in partnership with Croydon Council, as well as other local homeless support and charities.

As Debra says, all the people housed at Alexander House are “Croydon people who have become homeless.”

Debra, what does Evolve do differently to other homeless charities?

We are focused on making a lasting change for someone who is homeless. We try and address all their individual issues, so they are able to lead full independent lives. We work on coping strategies and provide risk management, exploring the triggers that can lead to regressive patterns of behavior. We also help people to find structure in their lives.

How closely do you work with other charities and homelessness support, such as Crisis, StreetLink and Thames Outreach, and how much of an integrated approach is taken?

We work really closely with the other charities and support groups and we take a partnership approach to it. We’re also part of the CR Zero 2020 steering group, which is involved in a European-wide initiative to end chronic rough sleeping across Europe by 2020. Croydon BID and Croydon Council are also part of this steering group, which has identified gaps in the support available in Croydon. On an everyday basis, Crisis has Skylight on Surrey Street and we work with them to integrate our services.

Croydon is said to have the highest number of rough sleepers of any outer London borough. Is there any particular advice that you would give businesses in the town centre who are experiencing issues with rough sleepers outside their establishments?

If you see someone sleeping rough, you can use a free app called Street Link. When you log the person or people, the information goes directly to the nearest outreach team, who are the most professionally placed to provide the help and support that person or those people may need. The Street Link app takes a minute to download from the App store and is very easy to use. This is the safest, most effective method to ensure the rough sleeper/s get help quickly. It must be noted that you are not ‘reporting’ on a rough sleeper to any authorities or the police but logging their locality (and some identifiable details) to ensure the outreach team can find and help them. If it looks like someone needs emergency help, then always contact 999.

I would say it’s best not to make any assumptions, not everyone engaged in begging will be homeless and vice versa. Providing the local outreach team with information via Streetlink is definitely the best first step, as they usually know most people seen out on the street and if someone isn’t homeless then they can still link them in with the most suitable support.

There are almost 4 times the national average of people living in temporary accommodation in Croydon; why do you think this is?

Croydon has the second largest population of any borough in London, and the highest population of young people. There’s a lot of young people but a lack of affordable housing. Furthermore, young people often require 1-bedroom flats, which are in short supply and high demand. Young people can also be at increased risk of homelessness if their family home situation has been precarious or they’ve experienced temporary housing in the past. Homelessness can have serious impacts on mental health and well-being; this is one reason why Evolve provides free counselling services to all our residents, or customers (as we prefer to refer to them as).

Are you optimistic about the future for Croydon in terms of reducing homelessness?

Croydon council have just announced their new homelessness strategy and I think the objectives that they have determined are the right ones. They’re genuinely committed to meeting the needs of people here. They’ve done valuable research and worked in partnership with charities locally to form the strategy, and they’re intent on increasing the affordable housing supply. Our CR Zero steering group is collaborating effectively to make long lasting changes. And Evolve Housing + Support continues to enjoy incredible success stories to move people from homelessness to full independent lives. So, yes, I am optimistic.

Croydon BID are sponsoring SLEEP OUT Croydon 2020 on Sunday, the 29th March 2020, which will be held at Boxpark Croydon.

To get involved and support SLEEP OUT Croydon 2020, visit



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