27 August 2013
There is a homeless chap that sits under the bridge that I pass under sometimes on my way to work at Connect Housing. He quietly asks for money and most people walk by without stopping. Last month, I was striding along deep in thought as to how we could progress our aim to work more closely with health, particularly around the DoH Homeless Hospital Discharge Fund – aiming to improve discharge pathways that improve access to housing and health for homeless people. I walked straight past him and I realised that although I was spending my day looking into how we can develop links between housing and health, I had been blind to him as a person living the reality – and I turned back.
Homeless people can become invisible to us all – either because we don’t want to see them or because we become inured to their position. Somewhere along the line have we become ok with the fact that some people have nowhere to live and struggle to access things we take for granted – like healthcare.
According to Crisis:
- The average age of death for a homeless woman is 43 and homeless man is 47.
- Homeless people are 9 times as likely to commit suicide than the general population.
- Drug and alcohol issues are prevalent among the homeless and are common causes of death.
The 2010 Homeless Link report The Health and Wellbeing of People who are Homeless states that:
- 15% of homeless don’t have a doctor and many have been refused access to a GP because they don’t have a fixed address.
- 80% of homeless people have a physical health need and 70% have mental health issues
- 4 times as many homeless people will be inpatients in hospital as the general population.
The year is 2013 and there are people living alongside us that may not live past their 40s for reasons that are preventable.
What can we do?
From our point of view, the key to addressing homelessness is to prevent it in the first place by linking people with targeted services. We work with people to help them keep their homes by offering housing support, employment support and money advice. For those who are homeless we have hostels and temporary housing, and we support people into appropriate accommodation. We work with people to register with doctors, address their health issues and co-ordinate care so they can manage long-term conditions. We help people find support for drug and alcohol issues.
With more people struggling to pay the rent, heat their home and feed their families, the threat of homelessness and/or ill health is increasing at the same time as services to support the homeless are decreasing – so we have a lot to do. We need people working on the ground in the health service to recognise how we can help improve health outcomes for people.
We want to work more closely with our health partners – and there seems to be a will to work together to improve outcomes. We are developing a re-ablement and resettlement service in Calderdale in conjunction with the Local Authority and Health Trust. Clinical Commissioning Groups in Kirklees are recognising the value of the Third Sector and its role in keeping people well and out of hospital, and we are keen to build on that.
It is easy to forget, being away from the front line, what the true impact of homelessness is. Working at a distance allows us to shape services but it has been a good reminder to me of what I go to work for and reinforces the need for building those links with health services.
Liz Power, Partnerships and Business Development Officer
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