My Week: Jeremy Swain

The chief executive of Thames Reach recounts his week

Jeremy Swain
Jeremy Swain

Thursday: I'm in Washington DC for a conference on homelessness involving researchers, academics and practitioners from Europe, the US, Canada and Australia.

Some interesting ideas have emerged, including research into the 'criminalisation of homelessness'. The issue of the soup run and rough sleeping byelaws proposed for a part of Westminster is leading to furious debate back home. I believe we need to be helping people to leave the street and that soup runs can prevent people facing up to the debilitating reality of rough sleeping.

Friday: I do a presentation at the last day of the conference on our work and start with a picture of me with a bunch of bananas on my head. When I put the presentation together in London, I thought this type of flippancy would go down a treat. The Australians titter nervously, the North Americans are bemused, the Europeans look concerned. I battle gamely to the end.

Sunday: I fly to Toronto to visit some homelessness projects. Phil Brown, head of shelter, support and housing administration for the City of Toronto, picks me up for a tour of the city's homelessness services. We visit Fork York, a high-quality transitional housing facility. Then it's Seaton House, a 700-bed shelter and a grim reminder of the other end of the shelter system. In large, impersonal dormitories men lie listlessly under blankets. It's the doorway to hell.

Monday: I spend the day with great people from an organisation called Fred Victor, which runs impressive accommodation and employment services. They are humane and self-deprecating.

Wednesday: Back in London, at an event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Clearing House, I chat with Sir George Young, one of the best housing ministers of the past 25 years. We're both cyclists and I once asked him why he didn't get sweaty when he cycled. "Don't rush around, old chap" was his response. Sage advice I have singularly failed to heed.

Thames Reach works with homeless and isolated men and women

Jeremy Swain is chief executive of Thames Reach

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