Tackling homelessness is a tall order. Numerous bureaucratic and philanthropic organisations have dedicated their energies to ending it. Yet Providence Row is different from the rest: it doesn’t simply salve the immediate problems, but works to keep people off the streets.
That’s an almighty challenge, but one that the charity’s new head, Tom O’Connor, is embracing with gusto. O’Connor, a Catholic who joined the organisation from Cafod last year, is remarkably unfazed by the task that lies ahead. He is chipper, straight-talking and bubbling with a refreshing energy. It is difficult not to feel moved by his enthusiasm.
He tells me, earnestly and without a trace of hesitation, that “everybody’s welcome” at Providence Row’s base in east London. That may seem remarkable, considering the complicated issues of addiction and mental health that often come hand-in-hand with homelessness.
“We will work with anyone regardless of their background and their current status,” says O’Connor. “From the first day, Providence Row has made it clear that we will welcome anyone from any community.
“We deliberately don’t put a time frame on clients’ time here. Some come through quite quickly and others are here for a long time.”
Providence Row welcomes those in the grip of addiction and allows them to enrol on training schemes. “Most charities prefer clients to have been clean for over a year,” O’Connor explains. “Here we don’t require trainees to have gone through recovery, which is really important because often people need the most help at that early stage.”
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