Caritas Anchor House is a Catholic homelessness charity providing residential and life-skills support for single homeless adults. Our driving mission is to ensure that those who walk through our doors grow in confidence and move towards leading independent, self-fulfilling lives.

CAH is based in the London Borough of Newham, a borough where a staggering 37% of the population are living in poverty, and 1 in 25 people are homeless – that’s more than anywhere else in the country.

We are a beacon of hope in Newham. Each year we help over 250 people turn their lives around and move on from homelessness. We do more than simply offer a roof over someone’s heads. By providing education, guidance and personal rehabilitation we help people overcome barriers, gain confidence and skills, and address the causes of their homelessness.

The support we provide is tailored to the needs of each individual that calls Caritas Anchor House home. Our Keyworkers meet with each resident for one-on-one support from day one, with help ranging from signposting to external services, to encouragement to participate in activities which improve confidence and wellbeing.

Those experiencing homeless are more vulnerable to other issues, but have a specialised set of keyworkers in our team including a mental health lead, substance misuse specialist, a young person lead, as well as a member with direct experience of homelessness. This is all to make sure that each person can receive the best support for them, and have the best chance at building a new beginning.

Our frontline staff also expands past keyworkers, and is complemented by team members specialising in education, training and employment (ETE), advocacy and move-on.

When asked in our survey this year, residents reported that ‘somewhere to live’ followed by ‘help finding employment’, were the two most important things for them at CAH, which is not surprising as upon arrival only 3% of our intake is in paid employment. Thankfully for our residents we have a dedicated education, training and employment team who support service users to secure training, qualifications and work experience. We give our residents opportunities for learning, such as barbering and cooking, which help to grow a resident’s confidence in their ability to learn, and chances to try out new professions.

Finally our residents are supported into independent living by our Move-On team who guide service users through the sometimes overwhelming process of moving out. It is important for our residents to feel comfortable as they leave supported accommodation and so our team arranges, and often accompanies residents to viewings, ensuring that a property is safe and suitable. We also help in setting up utilities, transferring benefits and many other processes which may be unfamiliar.

But Caritas Anchor House does not only focus on those living in our accommodation. We aim to increase the wellbeing and resilience of our community as a whole. Our community resilience and outreach programmes are exemplified with our Your Space project, which reaches out to the most isolated members of the community and brings them together in a safe space, facilities conversations and the building of bridges, confidence, and security.

At Caritas Anchor House we have a number of different teams and work areas with opportunities to volunteer. We are able to shape volunteering opportunities in line with the skills, experience and interests of the individual applying – ensuring that the opportunity is mutually beneficial.

Our teams vary from our frontline teams such as Keyworkers, our Education, Training and Employment team, our Move-On team, to our Kitchen and Maintenance teams. We would be open to taking on volunteers if they have a relevant skillset and can contribute positively towards a resident’s support. We also have reception and fundraising teams, who would be happy to work with volunteers to support our events, including outreach, awareness and challenge events.

Neena, our Mental Health Volunteer, tells us about her experience:

“Volunteering at Caritas Anchor House has provided me with a unique, rewarding and invaluable experience. My colleagues here have been extremely accommodating and have gone above and beyond to provide me with a large variety of experiences which have helped to prepare me for applying and securing paid employment.

“My volunteering placement provided an opportunity for me to apply the knowledge I have gained from university into a real-world setting, allowing me to support residents. I have learned more about homelessness and the resettlement process that an individual may go through. I’ve been able to co-facilitate and lead projects, such as relaxation sessions and a long-term investigation into the mental wellbeing of our residents. Whilst volunteering at Caritas Anchor House I have developed my interpersonal skills through interacting with a range of interesting people, and have gained knowledge that is only possible from practical experience.

“I would strongly advise anyone who is hoping to start a career working with people with experience of homelessness, offending or mental health issues to seek a volunteering role at Caritas Anchor House. I am sad to be leaving but I am extremely grateful for the experiences and help that they have provided me with.”

The stories featured here are personal accounts.

“Without Caritas Anchor House I might not still be around. They gave me back who I am, and probably a little bit more. I’ve achieved so much, and I couldn’t be more proud.” — Debbie, resident of Caritas Anchor House