Tackling trauma – theatre company’s new approach to homeless wellbeing


Homeless people whose mental health has suffered during lockdown will get better support thanks to an innovative approach by an East End theatre company.

Around 40% of members of Cardboard Citizens – which encourages people with experience of homelessness to take part in theatre – have mental health needs.

Now, the Whitechapel-based charity has received a £152,420 grant from City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charity funder, to embed a ‘trauma-based’ approach into its work.

The approach, which places emphasis on understanding and addressing past trauma such as neglect, abuse and conflict, is well established in therapy but not widely used in the arts.

Dhruv Patel, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust Committee, said: “Poor mental health is both a cause and a consequence of homelessness, and many homeless people live with experiences of past trauma which still impact on their lives today. 

“This funding will enable the charity to address these issues in its theatre work and the one-to-one support it offers members, putting them on course for recovery and improved wellbeing.”

During lockdown, Cardboard Citizens has had to close its office and workspace but has doubled the one-to-one support it offers members over the phone and online.

news london

NOW READ: The Barbican Centre’s new ‘A Countervailing Theory’ exhibit

It has also been offering online workshops, including ‘London On Lockdown 1664-2020’, aptly featuring readings from Daniel Defoe’s Journal Of The Plague Year.

The charity says a trauma-informed approach and a focus on supporting members to recognise their strengths and develop coping skills, will remove barriers to taking part in workshops and help members overcome past trauma.

Geetha Rabindrakumar, Cardboard Citizens Director of Social Change, said: “Our members often tell us they come in feeling lost, unhappy, scared and alone, but they find an open, welcoming space that is free of judgement, where they can develop their creative talents and feel part of a community.

“This approach means addressing symptoms and behaviours resulting from trauma, recognising them as a normal response to abnormal stress. Our own contribution lies in how we work with our members as artists with individual talents rather than people with deficits to be fixed.

“The funding will enable us to do more to help members make sense of and recover from trauma in their lives, while taking part in artistic work that can inspire and challenge other people.”

Images by Matt Allan.

For the latest headlines from the City of London and beyond, follow City Matters on TwitterInstagram and LinkedIn.