Centrepoint Independent Living Programme 2023

Words by
Sphere Editors

13th December 2023

Royalty, celebrity and the hard work of staff and volunteers combined to make 2023 a landmark year for Centrepoint’s Independent Living Programme, and one which helped transform the lives of many young people in need.

Presented by Centrepoint

This year saw the much-anticipated opening of Reuben House in Peckham, south London in February, which attracted considerable local and national media coverage for its part in the fight against youth homelessness.

The project, which is part of Centrepoint’s Independent Living Programme, allows young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to live in affordable housing and take control of their lives once again.

To qualify for a place at Reuben House, potential residents have to be aged between 18 and 24, in a full-time job or apprenticeship, and contribute a third of their take-home pay towards rent.

Each 21m sq home has a kitchen, dining area and bathroom, as well as a space in which to sleep and relax, making the homes comfortable for young people to live in independently.

Centrepoint Homeless Charity - Lugard Road

Photography by Joe Ramsey

Reuben House, SE15

This ground-breaking housing development was built off-site in the form of housing modules before being transported by lorry to London, with electrics and plumbing already installed and the flats fully-decorated throughout.

All 33 units were installed in less than a week, reducing costs and cutting construction times by more than half, meaning Reuben House could welcome residents much more quickly than with a traditional build.

The first group of residents were soon at home in the South London development, with some describing the experience as ‘life-changing’.

One of the first young people to move into the development was Janine, who described the call notifying her that she’d been accepted into Reuben House, as ‘the biggest relief.’ She was at risk of being made homeless due to an unaffordable hike in rent, but can now focus on completing her apprenticeship and upcoming exams.

Fellow resident Jayden had been ‘sofa-surfing for months but can now concentrate on his job in the hospitality industry thanks to Centrepoint’s Independent Living Programme. ‘I finally have the opportunity to turn my life around,’ he says.

In April, a fund-raising evening for Centrepoint, hosted by Strictly Come Dancing’s Claudia Winkleman with a live performance by musician Mica Paris, boosted awareness as well as much-needed funds for the project. Mica, an ambassador for Centrepoint, also took the time to visit the project herself.

Centrepoint Homeless Charity - Claudia Winkleman
Claudia Winkleman hosting a fund-raising evening for Centrepoint in April

Reuben House was officially opened in June by Centrepoint’s Patron, Prince William, the Prince of Wales, who described the project as ‘inspirational.’

The Prince, who has highlighted the UK’s homelessness crisis as one of his key causes, chatted to several of the residents of Reuben House during his visit, and even found time for a quick game of table football.

He heard first-hand how young people were stuck and facing homelessness before the Independent Living Programme launched, and said he hoped that the model could be replicated elsewhere.

‘The opening of Reuben House was a significant milestone in showcasing the remarkable progress of our Independent Living Programme,’ said Sally Orlopp, Centrepoint’s Director of People, Property and Independent Living. ‘In collaboration with key agencies, dedicated supporters and the Southwark local authority, we were able to present a blueprint for Independent Living that we believe can inspire others.’

As a Homewards Sector Partner, Centrepoint will be sharing on-the-ground expertise and learnings in Lambeth, south London as well as across the other Homewards locations, with the aim of kickstarting and inspiring a movement to end homelessness in the UK and overseas.

As the Prince of Wales said at the project launch: The aim is to demonstrate that together it’s possible to end homelessness – making it rare, brief and unrepeated. I refuse to believe that homelessness is an irrevocable fact of life. If we really want to fix homelessness, it can be done. If we do it together and there’s a big team effort, it is possible.’  

While the launch of Homewards and the opening of Reuben House were significant milestones in Centrepoint’s fight against homelessness in 2023, there were many other highlights during the year.

Centrepoint Homeless Charity - King Charles

Photography by Rebekah Kenington

Centrepoint's Patron Prince William at the opening of Reuben House in JuneWilliam

‘This innovative approach to creating genuinely affordable housing for young people is not just transforming people’s lives; it's providing them with the opportunity to propel forward in their life journeys,’ she added. ‘The impact of this initiative reaches beyond mere housing – it's a catalyst for lasting change and empowerment, where affordable housing becomes a cornerstone for a brighter future.’

The Prince continued his long-standing and invaluable support of homelessness charities in 2023 with the launch of Homewards, a transformative five-year programme which aims to demonstrate that together, it is possible to end homelessness for good.

Backed by Prince William and The Royal Household, Homewards is working in partnership with six flagship locations across the UK, who are forming locally-led coalitions of committed people, organisations and businesses, working together to create and deliver a plan to prevent homelessness in their areas.

The multi-award-winning garden designer Cleve West returned to the RHS’s Chelsea Flower Show to design the Centrepoint Garden, created to raise awareness of the valuable work carried out by the charity. Said West: ‘I much admire the work that Centrepoint provides in helping homeless young people rebuild their lives and I was keen to create a garden for them which shines a light on that valuable work.'

The garden was a huge success, winning the prestigious Best Construction Award (Show Garden) at the show as well as a Chelsea Flower Show gold medal. It even hit the headlines too, as reality TV star Vicky Pattison slept rough in the garden overnight in order to raise awareness of youth homelessness.

Towards the end of the year, fund-raising took a ‘murderous’ twist, with Centrepoint’s eye-catching sponsorship of the first ever Chiltern Kills literary festival.

The one-day event, organised by crime writers Tony Kent and Paul Waters, took place in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire in October and was a unique day of murder, mystery, drama, panel discussions and book-signings by the country’s leading crime writers.

‘I’ve always wanted to do something with Centrepoint because it’s an amazing charity,’ said Tony. The day attracted a sell-out crowd of crime literature fans and raised thousands of pounds for Centrepoint, an incredible achievement for a debut festival.

Sadly, the need for funds and increased awareness could not be greater. Despite the government promising to end rough sleeping by the end of the current parliament, the numbers forced to spend the night on the streets remain stubbornly high.

Things are only likely to get worse in the immediate term because, while there is not enough housing and emergency accommodation for those already homeless, hundreds more people are facing a night with nowhere safe to stay every day.

Centrepoint Homeless Charity - Vicky Pattison
Reality TV star Vicky Pattison slept rough in the Centrepoint Garden overnight to raise awareness

Young people have been especially badly hit by the crisis. The total number of those approaching their local authority for help last year increased by five per cent to its highest level of 136,000 and around a third of them were turned away without accessing any support as councils sought to prioritise other groups. Christmas is no exception, with 24,400 young people at risk of becoming homeless over the Christmas period.

Centrepoint wants this to change. Together with other charities and partners it will be campaigning for all parties to adopt a cross-government plan to end youth homelessness by addressing the root causes and preventing it, supporting those who are enduring it and working with young people so they can live without its devastating impact.

‘We are determined that the momentum we have built up so far is maintained in 2024,’ said Sally Orlopp. ‘It is crucial that we keep building on our Independent Living programme and continue to push for policy change in Parliament, especially around space standards and planning reform.

‘As well as directly lobbying our lawmakers, we also need to try and work with developers to encourage them to seek to embed Independent Living capacity into their Section 106 planning obligations.’

‘We have achieved so much in 2023 of which we can be justly proud, but we cannot rest on our laurels. There is so much more to do and I know that 2024 will be another year of transformation as we continue to work to end the blight of homelessness on people’s lives for good.’