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Published: 8th MARCH 2024

Ride and stride: Re-connecting London hostel customers with their local environment

People at risk of homelessness encounter increased barriers to active travel, community links and impacting change in their area. Maha Komber, Networks and Collaborative Design Project Manager and Iyke Gentles, Behaviour Change Project Officer explain how our project, funded by City Bridge Foundation, is supporting hostels to address this.

The project has supported Riverside Hostel customers to feel more socially connected, confident with active travel and empowered to influence local decision-making processes. ©Kois Miah

ߣߣƵ has worked with two Riverside Hostels re-igniting the connection that the customers (as hostel residents are known), have with their local public spaces.

These hostels in London provide support and housing for those at risk of homelessness and those who are homeless.

The first is Acre Lane Hostel, based in Lambeth and the second is Pimlico Pathways activities hub, in Westminster.

Facilitating a range of tailored, interactive sessions, ߣߣƵ supported Riverside Hostel customers to feel more socially connected, confident with active travel and empowered to influence local decision-making processes. 

ߣߣƵ staff working with Riverside Hostels customers outdoors.

ߣߣƵ have led walks, rides, and delivered cycle maintenance classes to help customers tackle the barriers they face to travelling actively in their area. ©ߣߣƵ

Social connection

Through our relationship with Riverside Hostels, we understand that hostels are becoming busier.

Furthermore, mental health issues are becoming more prominent among customers.

To help tackle loneliness and isolation, our group sessions included trying out a new café in the local area each time.

This gave customers the chance to socialise and relax outside the hostel.

Clara Johnston, Service Manager at Riverside Hostel commented on the notable difference this has made to the customers.

“It has been good to see how involved the customers have got and how much of a positive outcome this had on their mental and physical wellbeing.”

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It has been good to see how involved the customers have got and how much of a positive outcome this had on their mental and physical wellbeing. Blockquote quotation marks
Clara Johnston, Service Manager at Riverside Hostel
ߣߣƵ staff with Riverside Hostel customers standing in a line in front of Big Ben, smiling.

To help tackle loneliness and isolation, our sessions were always in groups giving customers the chance to socialise outside the hostel. ©ߣߣƵ

Confidence to walk and cycle in their local area

Many Riverside customers do not own cars, and public transport can be unaffordable for those on low incomes.

As such, walking and cycling are key transport options that can enable customers to access their local area.

We provided bikes as well as weekly cycle and walking sessions to staff and customers to increase their confidence and skills in active travel.

Wayne, a Riverside customer said:

“I’m elderly, I thought I’ll find it hard…but it was a nice, friendly thing.”

Riverside Hostel customers cycling in a line on a cycle path through London.

Walking and cycling are key transport options that can enable customers to access their local area. ©ߣߣƵ

Always learning

In response to Riverside customer and staff demand, we delivered maintenance classes in both the Westminster and Lambeth locations.

While this was first seen as opportunity to upskill those who attended, it also created a space where people could gather, socialise, and learn together.

Empowered to influence local decision making

At ߣߣƵ we strongly believe the unique, underrepresented experiences of public space should be taken into consideration when working on street design.

We used site walks, the , and best practice image example to spark conversation and better understand residents’ perception of their streets and green spaces.

As a result, we were able to have meaningful discussions about what improvements they would like to see in their local streets.

Our design team took these comments and produced concept designs based on the customers’ needs which we then showed to the customers.

Courtney Bokulu, Community Streets Design Officer for the London Borough of Lambeth added:

“Our residents are Lambeth experts, and we believe working collaboratively with people who know Lambeth best will produce the best results.”

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Our residents are Lambeth experts, and we believe working collaboratively with people who know Lambeth best will produce the best results. Blockquote quotation marks
Courtney Bokulu, Community Streets Design Officer, London Borough of Lambeth

Next steps

We are excited to say that following ߣߣƵ’ involvement in year one, the customers and staff have been empowered to continue the activities either individually or as a group.

Our aim for the second phase is to build on this by aiding the customers in positively engaging with more local people and spaces.

The Riverside Hostels project was a collaboration between ߣߣƵ, City Bridge Foundation, and Riverside Hostels in Lambeth and Westminster.

If you would like to discuss running a similar project in your area, please get in touch with ߣߣƵ London: london@sustrans.org.uk.

Find out more about our Healthy Streets Officers programme in London.

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