Our Journey

This timeline has been created to tell the story of Groundswell.  We’re very proud of our history and the many people who have been involved in Groundswell over the years. The timeline includes key ‘objects’, projects and milestones which tell our story.

The timeline was first created with the support of Museum of Homelessness (MOH) who worked with a team of volunteers to choose 20 objects that tell our story as part of an exhibition to celebrate Groundswell’s 20th Birthday – we are now adding to this.  You can watch a short video from the event below:

With thanks to the Museum of Homelessness for collecting and collating the archive making up Groundswell’s history.

Groundswell started as a project within the National Homelessness Alliance and it has evolved into where it is now supporting people experiencing homelessness to address their healthcare needs. Our story can be understood to have 4 ‘eras’ with our early days focusing on direct action and campaigning, moving to delivering Service User Involvement and Peer Research, becoming a support service provider ourselves and now growing our health focused research and services across the UK. You can click on the tags Era 1, Era 2, Era 3 and Era 4 to find out more about these periods and see the objects from that era.

While the project started with 20 key objects we will continue to populate the timeline with important objects, developments and achievements in our history. We realise that this is only a snapshot of the many people, projects and protests that Groundswell has been part of over the years. If you have anything to add, then please get in touch!

Groundswell were Highly Commended in the Charity Awards 2024 in the Healthcare and Medical Research category for #HealthNow. We were also Highly Commended in the Homeless Link 2024 Excellent Awards in the Excellent Support category for Homeless Health Peer Advocacy.
In October 2021 Groundswell took our insight to the bright lights of a cinema screen (and over 2,000 computer screens nationwide). Clarissa came to life, a fictional film created in collaboration people who have experience of homelessness.
In January 2021 we launched a ‘peer network’, led by #HealthNow Peer Coordinator, Emma. This platform brings togethers Groundswell’s volunteers and volunteers of partner organisations, as well as other experts by experience. The peer network is a platform to gather national insight into the experiences of people who are homeless right now and gives the opportunity for them to be heard by people who can truly listen and respond.
In August 2020 Groundswell celebrated 10 years of HHPA (Homeless Health Peer Advocacy) . In the first decade of this award-winning service over 130 volunteers with experience of homelessness had been trained in peer advocacy, supporting over 10,000 people who were homeless to access healthcare, improving their physical and mental health.
July 2020 saw the launch of Groundswell’s three year ‘Participation Works’ strategy (2020-2023). The strategy was launched four months after the UK (and much of the world) was forced into lock down because of COVID-19.
On 23rd March 2020 the world as we knew it halted and the UK went into lockdown. The subsequent 18months+  were challenging for everyone – especially for those experiencing homelessness, without a safe home to ‘stay home’ in and with many suffering from long-term health conditions increasing the risks of COVID-19.
The Health Now logo
In October 2019 we launched our #HealthNow campaign with Crisis and Shelter. The four year partnership was funded by the National Lottery Community Fund with a grant over over £1.5million.#HealthNow is a UK wide campaign, working towards an inclusive health system where everyone has access to the health care they need; ultimately moving people out of homelessness.
Sharon from Groundswell with staff from Depaul Ireland
August 2019 saw the beginning of Groundswell's award winning Homeless Health Peer Advocacy (HHPA) service move beyond London, where it has been delivered in over 10 boroughs since 2010. This new model sees Groundswell partner with local homelessness support services, supporting them to train a group of volunteers with experience of homelessness to become peer advocates.
Groundswell staff and trustee with the excellence award and certificate
In June 2019 Groundswell won a Homeless Link 'Excellence Award' in the 'Communicating for Change' category. The award was for the 'my right to healthcare' cards - where they were praised for using communications to change behaviours and improve lives. The award prize was a film made about Groundswell and the healthcare cards, view the film here. 
Dennis Rogers with his MBE medal
On Tuesday 19th March 2019 the Duke of Cambridge presented the MBE medal to Dennis, one of Groundswell's Case Workers. Dennis joined Groundswell in 2010 as a peer advocate - he was one of the first volunteers to trailblaze the peer advocacy approach to helping homeless people address their health problems.
An image of Nelson Mandela and the walk together logo
Groundswell were selected as one of 100 ‘Sparks of Hope’ by the #WalkTogether campaign. The campaign is founded by the Elders, an organisation of independent leaders founded by Nelson Mandela. In 2018 Gro Brundtland, the former Norwegian Prime Minister and one of the Elders,  interviewed Groundswell’s Director of Advocacy Kate and Resources Manager Katie to discuss why Groundswell are a ‘Spark of Hope’  (see video).
Front cover of the Pavement her story edition
In early 2017 the first Groundswell 'feature edition' of the Pavement magazine was published. This was part of the three year 'From the Ground Up' peer journalism project delivered in partnership with the Pavement magazine. Over the three years From the Ground Up trained 20 people with experience of homelessness in journalism, so they could report on the issues that most affect the homeless community.
The my right to healthcare card
In partnership with the London Homeless Health Programme (LHHP) we carried out peer-led research ‘More than a Statistic’ (2016), revealing that one of the key barriers people who are homeless face to getting healthcare is registering and making use of a GP practice.
The Room-to-Breathe Action Guide is designed to be a self-help tool to aid homeless people to identify and seek treatment for respiratory health issues. It was designed based on the findings of the in-depth research phase of the Insight and Action Project. The format has an interactive ‘fill-in-the-box’ element and includes a poster that showcases the findings of the research.
An image of Groundswell staff and volunteers winning the GSK impact award
In May 2016 Groundswell were named 'overall winner' of the GSK IMPACT Award, a national award run in partnership with The King’s Fund that recognises excellence in charities improving health and well-being in their communities.
An image of the saving lives, saving money report
This report was produced at the end of a year-long evaluation of Homeless Health Peer Advocacy (HHPA) delivered by the Young Foundation. The evaluation was funded by OAK Foundation and was launched at a parliamentary event in February 2016.
An image of the andy ludlow award
The Andy Ludlow Awards are offered by the London Housing Foundation. Groundswell won this award in 2014 and was the last charity to win the award in this particular guise.
The Mayor of London award certificate
In 2012, the Groundswell Peer Advocates won a ‘Team London’ Mayor’s Award for Volunteering. Some peers used their progression bursary to get ‘suited and booted’ for the prestigious event at City Hall.
This photograph shows Jimmy Carlson receiving his OBE for Services to Homelessness at Buckingham Palace. The Prince of Wales is handing Jimmy’s honour to him. Jimmy’s OBE was announced on 16th June 2012 in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List and the ceremony was held on the 25th August 2012.
Front cover of the homeless peoples commission good summary report
The Homeless People’s Commission comprised of homeless and ex-homeless people from across the nine English regions who compiled recommendations for Government to include in their homelessness policy. Topics ranged from prevention to accommodation through to health. In total there were 93 recommendations made.
An NHS lanyard
Dennis Rogers was in the first tranche of peers trained in 2010. Dennis has been key in developing the role of the peer advocate. He has personally delivered over 500 engagements and helped design the ‘targeted advocacy’ intervention – this involves two specialist homeless GP practices passing on names of clients who are known to have significant health problems who are missing appointments. Using his own experiences of homelessness – as well as his experience of being a frontline hostel worker and a street outreach worker - Dennis seems uniquely able to locate people sleeping rough that others struggle to contact – and bring them in to (often life-saving) appointments.
The Health Peer Educator High-vis jakcet
Groundswell’s first significant peer intervention into health came with the TB Peer Education Project in 2009. Peers went out with the Find & Treat Mobile X-Ray Unit which parked up outside hostels and day centres across London, offering to screen people for TB. The majority of peer educators had been treated for TB themselves and used this experience to encourage people to step onto the van.
Image of the escape plan booklet
The Escape Plan is a piece of peer-led research created by Groundswell. Interviews were conducted by Andrew Campbell and Michael ‘Spike’ Hudson, both of whom are professional researchers who have personal experience of homelessness. This document was intended as a practical tool for homeless people to design their own escape plan. It was a product of the Escape Plan findings and an academic report also exists.
Image of the enterprising solutions training manual
This training manual was part of a project which encouraged homeless individuals to utilise entrepreneurial skills in their journey out of homelessness. Peer presenters were trained to NVQ level to deliver this innovative initiative to groups and individuals in settings across the UK such as Big Issue Vendor meetings, day centres and other spaces.
An image of the listening to homeless people report
This project responded to a need for better health services for homeless people. It explored how homeless people were being treated when they accessed hospitals and A&E. The project led to two pathways for homeless people to go through Accident and Emergency – rough sleepers and people experiencing other types of homelessness.
An image of the toolkit for change
Toolkit for Change was a self-help manual and directory for groups of socially excluded people working to improve their lives. It includes many examples of self-help groups and their working practices. It also offers advice on how to set a group up.
Image of Groundswell Forum at the Penderosa
The Groundswell Forums were gatherings of homeless people which included Speak Outs and also offered workshops including meditation, Yurt building, design and printing of newsletters. The Forum was the first positive collective action on a large scale by the homeless community and had an up-beat festival feel whilst still focusing on real issues.
an image of the rough guide on exchanges
The Exchanges programme was a chance for a wide variety of individuals to meet and witness experiences from different groups around the country. This key document captured the ideas and actions generated from the programme and gave groups new ideas to include in their working practices.
The front cover of the speakout recipe book
Speak Outs allowed homeless people, whose voices were previously unheard, to have a say on decisions that would affect their future.
A still from the seize the day film
The early days of Groundswell focused on creating a platform for homeless people to have voice, a network to share advice and resources, and most importantly, a movement to create change. The 'Seize the Day' film captures the energy and 'DIY' approach that Groundswell took in the late 90s and early 2000s.
Image of the Groundswell network newsletter
This is Groundswell’s first newsletter. It connected a network of 400 campaign projects and individuals. 27 quarterly editions shared information, expanded the Groundswell network and encouraged participation at the first Groundswell national Forum.
Image of the invitation to speak about the rough sleepers initiative
Speak Outs originated in 1992 when Mike Connelly (aka James Nelson), following a trip to the States, had an idea for a rather ambitious international conference involving people from the UK and the USA, which he wanted to run at The Lambeth Mission on 31st October 1992.