The Halcrow Foundation is helping to fund a volunteer support programme at the London-based homeless charity, Groundswell.

Groundswell specialises in peer-led work and its Progression Programme supports volunteers who use their own experience of homelessness to help others still living on the streets. Working as a peer, the volunteers can make a positive contribution to society while overcoming personal, legal and social barriers, and moving forward with their lives.

The peers deliver Groundswell’s Homeless Health Peer Advocacy Service, which helps the increasing number of people without a home address physical and mental health issues. Research shows that 80 percent of homeless people have unmet mental health needs and 70 percent have physical health problems. Peers are able to use their own experience to help people whose chaotic lifestyles and complex issues prevent them from receiving healthcare.

Funding by Halcrow Foundation and Legal Education Foundation means that Groundswell can expand its progression team by hiring a Progression Officer. Their role is to hold one-to-one coaching sessions with the peers so they can develop and work towards a personal plan with clear goals. The Halcrow Foundation is also funding specialist legal support.

The Progression Programme itself offers cohesive training, support and coaching. It focuses on the individual’s strengths to develop their self-esteem, learn new skills and gain a sense of inclusion. Ultimately the programme supports the peers to find and maintain employment and independent living. In 2016, Groundswell supported 57 peers, with 28 moving on to training, employment or further volunteering, and 15 gaining paid employment.

A peer at Groundswell says, “From not being able to stay in one place for a week, I’ve now maintained a tenancy for two years, and it’s because Groundswell provided me with stability. Volunteering with Groundswell gave me a support system and a basic structure in my life, and helped me integrate into the rest of the world.”