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May 30, 2024

Remembering Jeremy Swain: A Remarkable Friend and Colleague

Dr Lígia Teixeira

Earlier this week, I lost a close friend and colleague: the one and only Jeremy Swain.

The last time I spoke with Jeremy was not long after he had undergone brain surgery to remove a tumour late last year. We chatted about Portuguese wine, and despite the sombre prognosis—up to 18 months—he remained incredibly upbeat. Little did I know that would be the last time I would hear Jeremy’s warm voice. His death on Monday came as a shock, almost as jarring as the initial diagnosis in early November.

It felt especially cruel that his passing came so soon after he had moved to Teignmouth in Devon with his dear wife, Tish, following a lifetime in his beloved Peckham in South East London. Jeremy was looking forward to starting a new chapter after years of caring for his elderly father. It feels particularly cruel that this happened just a few months after his father's passing. Knowing Jeremy, he would have been relieved that his father did not have to endure the loss of his son.

Jeremy's life had changed since leaving Thames Reach, where he devoted over three decades to helping people affected by homelessness. Despite these changes, he continued to touch the lives of countless people. He was one of those rare individuals who treated everyone with equal respect, regardless of their background or status. When we first met, he had already been a CEO for many years, yet he was genuinely interested in what I had to say—no ego, no status hangup. This genuine interest in others exemplified his belief that effective leadership required a deep, personal commitment to those being served. Jeremy's knack for finding common ground with anyone, regardless of their background, was truly remarkable.

At Thames Reach, he was particularly proud of the Employment Academy, which helped thousands of people transition from the streets into stable housing and employment. More recently, Jeremy served as Deputy Director for Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Delivery at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities. During the pandemic, he played a key role in supporting the UK Government’s response on the Covid-19 Rough Sleeping Taskforce.

In the last two years of his life, Jeremy continued his mission at the Centre for Homelessness Impact. Here, he served as an associate, driving the programme on the future of hostels in 21st-century Britain and making a substantial contribution to the feasibility study for the groundbreaking Test and Learn programme. This aims to apply rigorous, evidence-based methods to identify the most effective strategies for ending rough sleeping and other forms of homelessness, reflecting Jeremy's eagerness to embrace innovation and data-driven decision-making.

Jeremy Swain's passing leaves a void in my heart and the hearts of many others. His legacy, however, endures in the lives he touched and the projects he championed. His friends, colleagues, and the countless individuals he helped will miss him terribly, but we will continue to be inspired by his relentless dedication to improving efforts to end homelessness.

In remembering Jeremy, we honour not just his remarkable professional achievements but also the kindness, empathy, and humanity that defined his life's work. 

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