Caritas Anchor House in Newham is a residential centre that supports 140 people a day and see’s up to 250 individuals through their doors each year. More than just a place to stay, they provide a holistic package of support to their residents, with the intention to get people back into permanent housing, employment and a stable life, when they are ready to do so. Newham has the highest level of homelessness in the country with an astonishing one in every 24 people in the borough experiencing homelessness. On my recent visit, I had the pleasure of being shown around by Maya, the Fundraising and Marketing Officer and Peter, the Facilities Manager.
Residents of Caritas Anchor House often have complex needs and a lot of the work to get them back on their feet involves mental health support. Along with this, the centre offers training to help residents secure employment, all residents are provided with a key worker who works with each guest to address their needs, assess where they can be supported and a plan put in place to address those needs. Retreats, sports activities and a new partnership with the nearby gym are also on offer.
The centre has 140 rooms, most with en-suites and some with shared bathrooms, all have tv’s and guests are provided with clean bed linen and towels. In the shared living space, residents enjoy a large lounge with pool table, table tennis, a quiet reading area and a large tv with comfortable seating. There is a separate computer suite and an outside area for guests to relax. This has all recently been beautifully refurbished in a joint project between Caritas Anchor House, a charity called CRASH that assists homelessness and hospice charities with construction related projects, and VolkerFitzpatrick, the main construction company who completed the works alongside many others. New fully equipped shared kitchen space is available for all residents with a cupboard and fridge to share between three.
The centre offers regular food events, such as “Pasta for your thoughts” which is a chance for anyone who wishes to join in to share a meal and have a chat. This sort of event encourages a sense of community within the centre, builds friendships and strong bonds between staff and residents. The trustees are keen to offer the best service they can to their residents, and staff attend courses like cooking skills that they can share with residents.
The holistic approach to the care on offer extends across the whole staff team. Along with managers and key workers, the premises team play a vital role in the support of the residents. Peter, the Facilities Manager is a key player in the support of residents. He recently attended a course so that he can identify if residents may be facing mental health issues and acts as an intermediary and can flag up any issues that may need addressing with key workers. Shaun and Eddie on the facilities team also fit in time to play pool and table tennis with residents and encourage tournaments. This approach gives the centre a real sense of community.
Peter explained why the food City Harvest supplies is so vital as part of the package the centre offers. “When you have food, it frees you up to focus on the bigger things. There’s less worry for the resident’s, regardless of what they are going through. If you have a full tummy, you feel contented and can focus. That’s when you can start working on other aspects of your life that need addressing.”
Maya, the Fundraising and Marketing Officer went on to say, “Providing our residents with food is an essential step in the process of addressing the needs of those that find themselves homeless. Furthermore, giving residents the tools and resources for them to learn skills such as cooking well-balanced meals independently lies at the heart of what we do. We hope people leave Caritas Anchor House with all the tools they need to sustain their independence.”
The food City Harvest donates is currently used by residents to cook independently and is given out in bags to rough sleepers in the area. Going forward the centre plans to extend this by running a food bank from their dining space and City Harvest hopes to be there to support the amazing work Caritas Anchor House does every day.
by Tay Motl, head of charities at City Harvest. Photographs by Agne Bekeraityte