First Fruit: tackling homelessness in one of the most deprived boroughs in the UK

One in 24 people in Newham is classed as homeless. First Fruit is helping to support some of the people most affected, with a package of support ranging from accommodation to training.

Social Problem

More than 160,000 people in London are homeless. And the situation is getting worse – the number of Londoners sleeping rough on any given night more than tripled between 2010 and 2019. The London borough of Newham has been hardest hit – one person in every 24 is now classed as homeless. For asylum seekers, the picture is even bleaker as they cannot access state benefits. Historically, this has often resulted in women being forced into prostitution or having their children taken into care.


First Fruit is a family of charities offering support for disadvantaged people in Newham. First Fruit Group of charities offers accommodation for two groups of people – single homeless men who are able to access benefits, and single mothers who cannot access public funds due to their immigration status.

The women the charity supports have often been trafficked to the UK or brought here as children. First Fruit offers a holistic package of support to both groups of beneficiaries – helping the women to settle their legal status in this country, access parenting classes and learn English, and the men to access training opportunities and find jobs.


First Fruit had been renting one of its hostels for 15 years. When the landlord decided to sell it, First Fruit realised it needed to take out a loan or lose the property. However, the commercial banks that the charity approached had strict stipulations, including requiring trustees to give a personal guarantee, which the charity was unable to meet. Charity Bank made no such demands and agreed to lend First Fruit £400,000.


First Fruit was able to buy its hostel. The charity’s package of support is helping to get people off the streets, gain new skills and look to the future. On the work to support women, 100% of the clients moving on got their status settled while with the charity. Last year, First Fruit also helped more than 20 men into employment or job training, and more than 30 into more permanent accommodation. The charity is now aiming to expand its reach by purchasing more properties.

“Commercial banks seem to be scared of dealing with charities. Charity Bank accepts charities as charities. They understand our ethos; they can see what we’re trying to do. Without their help, I would have had to watch one of our houses being sold into the privately rented sector.”

Christina Baby, CEO, First Fruit

About Charity Bank

Charity Bank is the loans and savings bank owned by and committed to supporting the social sector. Since 2002, we have used our savers’ money to make more than 1,000 loans totalling over £300m to housing, education, social care, community and other social purpose organisations.

Find out more about us here.

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